Recently I have been working with Megan Pickering and the Feminist Library to produce some artwork for their salon on women’s’ roles in the 1984 miners’ strike (more information available here).
As well as showing one of my quilts at the event, I also produced a new piece of work in response and designed a couple of badges for them.
When I was first coming up with ideas for quilting, I found myself asking who made the banners for the miners strike.
This linked into questions about why craft skills that are traditionally associated with women had been devalued when contrasted with typically male craft skills, as well as how certain types of work have also historically been devalued – things like child rearing, caring for relatives and keeping everything ticking over at home, both emotionally and financially. The miner’s strike had a significant impact on people carrying out such roles – mainly women – but that’s not a story that tends to get told.
During the miners strike, women not only had to find ways to juggle all these responsibilities on a pitifully small budget (miners received no strike pay but the amount they should have got was deducted from their dole money) but they also got together and contributed towards the strike effort, setting up soup kitchens, organising food parcels and picketing strike breakers for example. They recognised that what lay in the balance wasn’t just their husbands’ jobs but the future of the whole community.
Hearing about how hard “Women Against Pit Closures had worked”, only for the miners to come away with nothing wasn’t easy. What was good to hear though was about how these women had stayed politicised and had grown in confidence through the experience, subsequently going to university (previously not even entertainable) and studying for careers or moving into politics for instance.
It was both humbling and empowering to hear about women taking control of their lives and demanding a voice, especially in the current political climate where even if you do want things change, it can be hard to know where to start. These were ordinary women who showed that extraordinary things can happen through working together which is just as relevant thirty years later.
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