The Match Girls’ Strike

In July 1888, 1,400 women and girls walked out of the Bryant & May match factory in London, in what came to be known as the Match Girls’ Strike. British socialist Annie Besant used her newspaper, The Link, to publicize the 14-hour workday, toxic materials, and the unfair difference between shareholder profits and the poverty wages paid to employees.

Workers complained of fines that cut into their wages, and of unfair dismissals. They also suffered breathing difficulties and other health problems because of the phosphorus fumes in the factory.

Bryant & May attempted to crack down on public criticism by making their workers sign a written denial of any ill-treatment. This, combined with another unfair dismissal, set off the strike. The public sided with the workers, and Bryant & May relented. The success of the match girls inspired a wave of similar strikes in the UK and boosted the rise of trade unionism.”

Sources : The Feminism Book (DK)

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