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The 2021 Mary Macarthur Lecture

Online 7pm Friday 12 March 

Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, is now confirmed as the keynote speaker.


Angela advanced through the trade union movement whilst working in social care, before becoming elected as an MP in 2015 and Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in 2020. Hers is an inspiring story about the vital roles trade unions play in giving opportunities to women to pursue their ambitions to their fullest and we are delighted that Angela can share her thoughts with us at this year's lecture.

This year, marking 100 years since the untimely passing of the great Mary Macarthur, we will also hear from a number of leading women in academia and trade unions, as we discuss what lessons we should learn from Mary's experience organising vulnerable working women, and how we build a more progressive future for working women.


Register here

Further keynote speakers include:

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU Born in Bolton, Mary was a secondary school teacher before becoming a lecturer at the University of York. Mary progressed to Head of Secondary Education at Edge Hill College and then Kingston University before becoming General Secretary of ATL in 2003 which merged with NUT in 2017 to form the NEU

Dr Cathy Hunt, academic and historian An academic focussing on people’s lives in Britain in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century, Dr Cathy Hunt is an authoritative voice on the life of Mary Macarthur and the women whom she organised. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of her death, Cathy has worked with the TUC Library to create a special exhibition about Mary Macarthur's life.

Sarah James, GMB national women's equality lead Sarah works locally to the home of the women chainmakers at Sandwell Council. A powerful and articulate advocate for equality and justice, helping to form and drive forward the GMB's 'BOSS' group and taking on a national role on equality within the GMB, Sarah is a great example of articulate and brave trade unionism - a true legacy of Mary Macarthur and the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath

Louise Regan, NEU & TUC Midlands Chair Louise is a teacher who is the NEU's National Officer. A previous NEU President, Louise is the current TUC Midlands Chair and a leading voice in the midlands, constantly pushing for greater fairness, justice and equality

Chaired by Sylvia Heal - Patron of the Women Chainmakers' Festival and ex Halesowen and Rowley Regis Sylvia was famously first elected to the House of Commons at the Mid-Staffordshire by-election in 1990 in a contest that was largely fought over the Poll Tax. Elected in 1997 for the Halesowen and Rowley Regis she was a frontbench spokeswoman for health and women as well as spending time on the Education select committee. A passionate advocate of the TUC Women Chainmakers' Festival, Sylvia has supported and promoted the festival from its inception and is today the patron of the festival,


2021 virtual Chainmakers festival will be Sat 3rd July

 2020 Women Chainmakers' festival virtual event

 + New digital exhibition explores the historical significance of trade union leader Mary Macarthur and the work of the National Federation of Women Workers.


Using the TUC Library’s archives it illustrates the harshness of women’s work in the early 20th century and the campaign to organise women workers into trade unions. Visit the exhibition here....


2020 TUC Women Chainmakers – ‘Forging New Links – building a better future for working women’
Midlands TUC for the women chainmakers festival. The annual TUC Women Chainmakers’ Festival is moving online this year due to Covid-19.

This virtual event included

1) The famous Mary Macarthur 'Call to Arms' and 'Victory Speech'.
2) Short chain making related films.
3) 'Forging new links’ interactive panel discussion.

Panel included:
- Dana Mill, writer and activist.
- Eleanor Smith, ex- MP for Wolverhampton South West and long
standing local activist.
- Zarah Sultana MP, Coventry South
- Nicky Downes, Joint Branch Secretary Coventry NEU

Chair: Katherine Salt, TUC Midlands Women’s Committee, Chair

The panel will explore how progressives can build wider coalitions to broaden support and secure real and lasting change.

The National Education Union (NEU) is hosting this event on behalf of TUC Midlands Region.
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annual Midlands TUC Chainmakers Festival, Saturday 6th July 2019,  the largest celebration in Britain of women's political history.

11.00 - 20.00 | Mary Macarthur Gardens
This year the festival was revamped with all activities taking place in Mary Macarthur Gardens.

Stalls, the new 'Leftfield Tent' withactivities for kids, as well as political debate, with panels exploring the role of women in trade unions and society and how to organise young workers.

The much loved theatrical re-enactment  with a banner parade around Cradley Heath,plus main tent with speeches and music.

Headlining the festival was the Latin funk band Wara


Leftfield Tent
12.00 Children’s activities workshop (and 'Call to Arms')
13.00 Young Workers Panel debate
14.00 ‘Women in Leadership’ panel
14:30 Victory Speech
14:45 Banner Parade

Main Tent
15.10 Third Junction
16.15 Steph Peacock MP
16.30 Sunflower Thieves
17.35 Cathy Hunt & Louise Townsend
17.45 Emily Lockett
18.15 Wara


It re-enacts the struggle and celebrates the achievements and strugle of the trade union movement both then and now. 

Tired of working day and night for starvation wages, the Women Chainmakers of Cradley Heath in the Black Country in 1910, downed their hammers and stood up for their right to earn a living wage.

Led by the founder of the National Federation of Women Workers, Mary Macarthur,  their ten week strike successfully established the right to a minimum wage.



 This year’s event will be exclusively held on Mary Macarthur Gardens (junction Lower High St/Sydney St) with a banner parade up the High Street at Cradley Heath.

 The iconic heart of the famous struggle where the Chainmakers worked, lived - and fought their successful ten week dispute to secure a minimum wage for their sector. 

marymacarthurA family friendly street festival involving market stalls, fun fair rides, speeches, street theatre, music and debate.
The bigest annual celebration of women's history in Britain.
 For more information please contact organisers Midlands TUC 0121 2626380 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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With help from the Friends of the Women Chainmakers       contact:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 





How to get to  Cradley Heath from Wolverhampton by train: 

off-peak Day Return  
leave  Wolverhampton Rail Station, taking London Midland train towards Walsall
change at Smethwick Galton Bridge Rail Station 
 take London Midland train towards Kidderminster
arrive at Cradley Heath Rail Station                        see the journey planner here....