women striking in the 1980's

Strikes and protests

During times of change and hardship, women have played a vital part in showing support for the cause.

It was during the General Strike of 1926 that women first took to the streets to defend men's right to a decent wage. Miners' wives attacked the blacklegs - the workers who weren't striking - as well as turning on the police who were there to protect the protesters.

In 1934, the government took action against the rising costs of paying dole to unemployed people. Benefits were cut and families lived in constant threat of the means test man who would call at homes to check if they were making money through undeclared earnings, or if there was anything they owned that could be sold.

There was a huge fear the government might establish 'slave camps' - unpaid labour camps for unemployed men who had become idle from lack of work.

A hunger march left south Wales in 1934 to protest against these schemes. The destination was London, but the march began 160 miles away in Tonypandy. Among the hundreds of Welsh miners were a dozen women wearing rucksacks and red berets. They had been coached in public speaking to be able to address meetings on their overnight stops on the way to the capital.

During the nationwide Miners' Strike of 1984, women protested alongside their husbands, fathers and brothers, to oppose the closure of 28 south Wales pits. As well as protesting about the loss of jobs, they were protesting about the threat to their communities if work in the Valleys were to disappear.

Women joined the picket lines, marched at rallies and provided food parcels. After a year on strike, the miners conceded defeat and returned to work.

The news that American cruise missiles were being stored at Greenham Common RAF base in Berkshire in 1980 prompted a group of women from Carmarthenshire to take action against nuclear weapons. The group of protesters, Women for Life on Earth, planned a peace march from Cardiff to the airbase. Arriving at Greenham Common in September 1981, they saw the protest as a way of highlighting how the nuclear threat was much closer to home than the public realised.

The complete indifference shown to their protest, from the government, media, and the public, prompted them to stay at the base for longer than they'd intended. It continued for years, with thousands of people protesting for an end to the use of nuclear power and weapons.

The last missiles were flown back to the US in 1991. The final protesters left Greenham in 2000, when they won the right to have a permanent memorial to the campaign built at the site.


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