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, trade union and labour history is sometimes interpreted by those far removed from the day-to-day lives and experience of those directly involved. The contributions of working class women remains unacknowledged and invisible when it comes to the 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 British Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 when they both joined “The Women Against Pit Closures Movement”. What followed was a roller coaster of practical action including 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 beginning of the strike but through the tumult of the mining war in the North of England, alongside 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 as they had discovered their own voices.
The 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: “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. Both remain committed to the struggle. Betty recently retired from a call-centre at the age of 81, however, she is worried that ” a lot of working-class people are against one another”, while Anne says 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 (friend of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, Guest Speaker at 2012 Festival) led to the founding of The Daughters of Mother Jones group in the UK and inspired their interest in Mother Jones. Few will forget Anne and Betty’s 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