Protest

East End women take action: 1888 to 2016

EEWact-activism-objects.jpg

In September we held an event with East End Sisters Uncut at St Hilda's East community centre, bringing together some fantastic speakers to talk about about the different ways east London women have challenged sexism, racism, exploitation, and injustice then and now.

Watch talks from the day online

Thanks to filmmaker Bea Moyes we have videos of all the talks on the day, take a look:

Around 70 people attended on the day. We've made a Storify collecting some of the tweets from the event which you can see below.

What is your activist object?

We also had some sheets of flipchart paper up on the walls asking some questions for our guests to answer about their activism:

What object is essential for your activism? answers on post it notes include pen, bike, phone, friends, tea
What object is essential for your activism? answers on post it notes include pen, bike, phone, friends, tea
How does activism make you feel? answers on post its include powerful, tired, happy
How does activism make you feel? answers on post its include powerful, tired, happy

Lend us your histories!

We planned to have some time at the end of the day for the audience to share their stories, whether about their own experience of activism or a story about their friends, family, or the wider community.

Sadly we ran out of time, but we'd still love to hear your histories. Please feel free to share them in the comments or use our contact form to tell us more.

We would especially love to hear any stories about Bengali women's housing activism in the 1970s or black women's organising in the 1980s, as we had speakers lined up to talk about these movements that had to pull out.

Raising money for East End Sisters Uncut

On the day we had donation buckets and a cake stall raising money for East End Sisters Uncut which raised £235, and around 25 people made a donation online when they registered for the event.  Thank you everyone!

If you would like to support the brilliant work of East End Sisters Uncut you can donate via Paypal on their website.

[<a href="//storify.com/EEWomensMuseum/east-end-women-take-action-1888-2016" target="_blank">View the story "East End Women Take Action 1888 - 2016" on Storify</a>]

A personal history of East End Sisters Uncut

At our East End Women Take Action event in September 2016 two members of East End Sisters Uncut - Sarah and Saskia - spoke about the history of the organisation and the importance of intersectionality in feminist organising. Watch the video of their talk below, filmed by lovely volunteer Bea Moyes.

East End Women's Museum Event: East End Sisters Uncut.

Louise Raw on the Matchwomen's Strike

Janine Booth on the Poplar Rates Rebellion

At our East End Women Take Action event in September 2016 Janine Booth gave a talk about the Poplar Rates Rebellion in 1921 and the women who took part. Watch a video of the talk below, filmed by lovely volunteer Bea Moyes.

East End Women's Museum Event: Janine Booth.

Find out more

Sarah Jackson on how the East London suffragettes used the media

At our East End Women Take Action event in September 2016 I gave a talk about the East End Federation of the Suffragette, founded by Sylvia Pankhurst in 1914, and how they used the media to support their activism. You can watch a video of my talk below, filmed by lovely volunteer Bea Moyes.

East End Women's Museum Event: Sarah Jackson.

Find out more

 

Julie Begum on how Women Unite Against Racism took on the BNP

At our East End Women Take Action event in September 2016 Julie Begum spoke about her experiences setting up Women Unite Against Racism after Derek Beackon of the British National Party was elected as councillor in Millwall by just eight votes in 1993. You can watch a video of her talk, filmed by lovely volunteer Bea Moyes.

East End Women's Museum Event: Julie Begum.

Find out more

Nadia Valman on Jewish women's activism at Cable Street and beyond

Women at the Battle of Cable Street

Cable Street Mural Today is the 80th anniversary of the 'Battle of Cable Street', one of the East End's proudest moments.

The Battle of Cable Street

On 4 October 1936, Oswald Mosley's fascist Blackshirts attempted to march from Tower Hill, through Aldgate and Shadwell, a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood at that time.

When they arrived at Gardiner's Corner, a huge crowd (estimates vary from 20,000 to 200,000) gathered to block their path, roaring “They Shall Not Pass!” After 6,000 police failed to clear the area, the march was diverted via Cable Street.

However, three sets of barricades, including an overturned lorry, had already been set up there. Broken glass and marbles had been strewn across the street, and thousands of local people massed behind each barricade, chanting anti-fascist slogans and fighting back fiercely against the police.

Eventually the Police Commissioner instructed Mosley to march his troops west and out of the area, in a humiliating defeat. Thousands of the anti-fascist protestors gathered in Victoria Park to celebrate their victory.

Milk bottles and other weapons

Local communist activist Phil Piratin recalled:

“It was along Cable Street that from the roofs and the upper floors, people, ordinary housewives, and elderly women too, were throwing down milk bottles and other weapons and all kinds of refuse that they didn’t any longer want in the house onto the police.”

Although the image of housewives throwing rubbish down at the police and the fascists has become an important part of Cable Street mythology, women were also in the street, fighting alongside the men.

Joyce Goodman (née Rosenthal) said: "the police... were just hitting everyone. There were women going down under the horses hooves.”

Out of the 79 anti-fascist protestors arrested on the day, 8 were women.

Sarah Wesker

Mick Mindel was a union leader who was there on the day, and in an interview years later he commented:

“women leaders like Sarah Wesker set an example and at the time of the Cable Street battle she was a real inspiration to all of us.”

Sarah Wesker has been all but forgotten now, but in the 1920s she gained a high profile in London as a formidable union organiser, leading famous strikes at the Goodman's, Poliakoff's, Simpson and Rego textile factories. In 1932 she was elected to the Communist Party’s Central Committee at the 12th Congress.

Fluent in Yiddish and English, she had a reputation as a fiery speaker, “as if the energy of five men was balled up inside that miniature frame of hers” (she was less than five feet tall).

'I am not afraid of you'

Jack Shaw, another Cable Street battler interviewed in later life makes a compelling reference to a young woman he saw in the police charge room after they had both been arrested.

“While he was there, he saw a huge policeman drag in a young woman, rip off her blouse and hold his truncheon as if to strike her in the face.

She stared straight at him and, with defiance in her voice, said: "I am not afraid of you". As the room went quiet, the policeman called her a Jewish bitch and put her in a cell.

Jack says she typified the courage and spirit of the women in the anti-fascist struggle.”

Love on a lamp post

Charlie Goodman was just 16 when he was arrested and savagely beaten by the police after climbing a lamp post and shouting to the crowd: "Don't be yellow bellies, forward, we are winning!"

Later he married a woman who was also there on the day. Joyce Rosenthal was only 12 in 1936 but was nonetheless in the front line - they met four years later and she asked him if “he was the nutcase up the lamp post. When he said he was, she knew he was just her type.”

The spirit of Cable Street today

The best way to keep the spirit of Cable Street alive is to keep fighting fascism, racism, and intolerance wherever we find it. Next time the EDL come to East London, join the counter protest and show them that our community is prepared to stand against them, then as now.

This weekend there are a whole host of events taking place to celebrate the 80th anniversary. Here are two we're really excited about:

Saturday 8 October - Women's voices

Author Kate Thompson interviews women veterans of the Battle of Cable Street Come along and listen to Mari Butwell, Marie Joseph, Millie Finger, Beattie Orwell, and Sally Flood.

Idea Store Watney Market, 2.30pm-4.30pm

Sunday 9 October - March and rally

The march will assemble at Altab Ali Park at 12 noon and proceed to the Cable Street Mural for a rally in St George Gardens on Cable Street.

There will be speeches from national and local organisations including Cable Street veteran Max Levitas, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Rushanara Ali MP, Frances O'Grady General Secretary TUC, music from marching bands along the route, and stalls at the rally. Here's the main Facebook event.

Join the women's history bloc and march with our museum banner! Meet us beside the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, 32-34 Whitechapel Rd, London E1 1DY at 11.45 am and we'll walk down to the park together.

East End Women's Museum Banner (work in progress)

For more information about the Battle of Cable Street and the women who fought there take a look at the In Her Footsteps projectEast End Walks, and this great article by Nadia Valman.

 

Help us create an exhibition about women in Hackney

Illustration of a group of women protesting with placardsHackney Museum and the East End Women's Museum are joining forces to tell the story of women who have led political and social change in Hackney.

Why now?

2018 will be 100 years since some British women first won the right to vote.

To mark the occasion an exhibition exploring how women in Hackney have changed society both with and without the vote will be on display in Hackney Museum.

Join the community forum

We are holding an event for anyone who is interested to share their ideas and tell us what they would like to see in the exhibition.

You can also find out about joining the team of volunteers to create the exhibition, helping to uncover hidden stories by exploring the borough’s rich archives.

The community forum will be held at Hackney Museum, 1 Reading Ln, London E8 1GQ on Thursday 21 July 6 – 7.30pm, no booking required. Join the Facebook event.

Volunteer for the exhibition team

There are lots of ways to get involved, and no prior experience is needed – just enthusiasm!

There are some key roles we'd like to fill. Take a look at the role descriptions below to find out if one might suit you:

 

We're not finished: exhibition and launch event

We're Not Finished is a free exhibition about women's activism in East London created by Eastside Community Heritage in partnership with the East End Women's Museum, on display at Whitechapel Idea Store from 21 March until 21 April.

The exhibition includes fascinating oral histories drawn from interviews and workshops which illuminate the experiences of women fighting for change in East London. The aim of the project is to help establish a history of women campaigners in the East End.

East London Federation of the Suffragettes

One of the main groups featured is the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), a radical group founded by Sylvia Pankhurst in 1914 in Bow. Sylvia separated from the work of her mother and sister in the WSPU as she believed that working class women had as much power as middle and upper class women in the fight for suffrage; Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst did not agree.

The ELFS membership was made up of and focused on issues relevant to working class women; they built a mass movement for equality and campaigned on many issues beyond the vote.

Women's working rights

But we’re not finished. Over the last century and today there are still issues of inequality, often in the workplace. Another area which the exhibition focuses on is women's fight to secure working rights - equal pay, maternity rights, better conditions, challenging sexist discrimination - and participation in the trade union movement.

Exhibition launch event

The exhibition will launch with an event on Monday 21 March at 5.30pm with speakers, refreshments, and activities related to the themes of the exhibition. More details coming soon!

Community history projects put women in the picture

We're not finished! Slogan and photograph of women protesting The East End Women's Museum project had a brief hiatus before Christmas for house-moving and business-starting. Since then we've been doing some research into governance structures and possible funding sources, and we've got some ideas we're really excited to share with you soon. Watch this space!

In the meantime we're incredibly proud to share these fantastic community history projects we're involved in:

We're Not Finished! Campaigning for women's rights since 1883

East End women have changed the world. From the match women of Bow to the Ford factory machinists of Dagenham, the women of East London have fought for their rights, their beliefs, their families and their communities.

We're working in partnership with local charity Eastside Community Heritage to organise a series of school and community workshops and an exhibition about the East End's inspiring women activists.

  • Please help us tell their story by contributing to the project crowdfunder. If we hit our target of £800 the full cost of the workshops will be covered! We've just passed the £500 mark and have one week left to raise the rest. Please donate today!
  • Have you (or has someone you know) been involved in a local campaign or a protest? ECH are looking for people to interview. Please contact kirsty@ech.org.uk to help make history!

St George's-in-the-East vigil and women's history exhibition

In November we worked with a great team of volunteers to organise a vigil for International End Violence Against Women Day, commemorating the women who were killed in the 1888 Whitechapel Murders. The vigil was followed by a moving service at St George's-in-the-East, just off Cable Street.

We're also working with the team on a women's history exhibition which will go on display in the church from May, and a series of events in March. It's not too late to get involved! Email womensmuseum@stgeorgesintheeast.org if you'd like to volunteer. Find out more.

In Her Footsteps: Walking tour web app and exhibition

We were chuffed to join the steering group of the In Her Footsteps project led by Share UK, working with volunteers to develop a walking tour app exploring the history of women-led activism in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

The app will be developed over the next few months, launching with an exhibition and some great events in the summer. Sign up to the project's email list for updates, or contribute your story!

If you're planning or working on a community history project about women in East London we'd love to hear about it and help if we can. Please get in touch!

Share your stories of East End women fighting for their rights

ECH leaflet calling for interviewees

We're working with a fantastic local charity called Eastside Community Heritage to record and share the stories of East End women who have been involved with protests to advance and protect the rights of workers.

Did you have a suffragette or a match woman in the family? Have you taken part in actions for equal pay or fair wages? Have you walked out on strike?

ECH are looking to interview people about their memories, and excerpts from these interviews will be shared online and at a small public exhibition in March as part of Women's History Month.

If you'd like to find out more please contact Kirsty on kirsty@ech.org.uk or 0208 553 3116