This publication is a rarity. Working-class women who fight for social justice seldom get an opportunity to tell their own story in their own voices.Social, union and labour history is sometimes interpreted by far removed from the day to day lives and experience of those directly involved. The contributions of working class women remains unacknowledgedisible when it comes to their absence of their names and images on the public monuments and street names of our cities and towns.
Anne Scargill and Betty Cook did not come together until the beginning of the Miners’ strike in 1984 when they joined The Women Against Pit Closures Movement. What followed was a roller coaster of practical action such as feeding their striking neighbours and taking direct action to protect their communities.
However it also led to a personal journey for each of them. Both were married with families at the start of the strike but through the tumult of the mining war in the North of England, along with education and a passion to stand against exploitation of people, they achieved their own personal independence and freedom in spite of the disastrous outcome of the miners strike. In the midst of defeat, Anne and Betty emerged with the power to act and they had discovered their own voices.
Their accounts of their early lives in Barnsley and Brick Lane are told in raw unvarnished personal accounts, without self pity, without preaching or seeking acceptance…… life was tough in the coal fields. Yet they tell their stories with gritty humour, compassion and fierce direct humanity in spite of personal tragedy and upheaval in their lives.The chapter on Rent A Mob, Rent a Gob leaves one angry and yet uplifted.
Today they look back on a life of standing firm against the exploitation of workers and they do so with a sense of pride. Betty retired from a call-centre at the age of 81, she is worried that ” a lot of working-class people are against one another” while Anne announces that “anybody who needs help on a picket line only has to pick up the phone and I’ll be there”. Their trip to the women miners reunion in Appalachia 2013 organised by Marat Moore (see below) led to the founding of The Daughters of Mother Jones group in the UK and their interest in Mother Jones. Few will forget their powerful rendition of Mal Finch’s song “Women of the Working Class” at the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2014.
In these dark times for working people with ongoing political upheaval and Covid-19 lockdowns, Anne & Betty United by the Struggle illuminates and shines warmly through adversity, hard times and the necessity to keep fighting against injustice.
This book is highly recommended and is available from firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo 1 Anne & Betty United by the Struggle.
Photo 1 Anne & Betty with their Daughter of Mother Jones banner at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in 2019. (Courtesy of Claire Stack).
Photo 2 Anne & betty helping striking SIPTU workers in Dublin in 2014 (Courtesy J Thomson)
Photo 3 Marat Moore, Rosemary Feurer and Elliott Gorn with the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. John Buttimer in 2012.