Sunday, December 18, 2011

Annie Besant (Match Girls' Strike) at Windsor 1890

On Tuesday evening, 11th March 1890 at Templars Hall, Windsor, Annie Besant a prominent Fabian socialist speaker lectured to a "packed and enthusiastic" audience on "Why we teach Socialism".

To quote the local Buckinghamshire Advertiser

"The meeting was raised to a pitch of great excitement by Mrs Besant utteranc
es; and a crowd followed her to the station afterwards, and loudly cheered her as her train left the Great Western station platform".

Buckinghamshire Advertiser 15th March 1890

It was Annie Besant who led 1,400 women match makers at Bryant & May into a heroic strike and victory in July 1888 and nodoubt accounted for her great popularity amongst the working class and progressives.

Annie Besant Report The Link (23 June, 1888)

"White Slavery"

Born in slums, driven to work while still children, undersized because under-fed, oppressed because helpless, flung aside as soon as worked out, who cares if they die or go on to the streets provided only that Bryant & May shareholders get their 23 per cent and Mr. Theodore Bryant can erect statutes and buy parks?

Girls are used to carry boxes on their heads until the hair is rubbed off and the young heads are bald at fifteen years of age? Country clergymen with shares in Bryant & May's draw down on your knee your fifteen year old daughter; pass your hand tenderly over the silky clustering curls, rejoice in the dainty beauty of the thick, shiny tresses.


The first Edition of the link was produced in February 1888,

"The Link, a journal which has been founded ....simply and solely as the helper of the helpless, the friend of the oppressed, and the advocate and champion of the cause of Disinherited of our race" stated Annie Besant and W.T. Stead in its first issue.

Annie Besant also went on to campaign for Free School Meals as a member of the London School Board in Tower Hamlets and Fair (trade union) wages

Annie Besant had become a Fabian Socialist in 1855

Annie Besant Elected to the London School Board (Tower Hamlets) in 1889

Besant drove about with a red ribbon in her hair, speaking at meetings. "No more hungry children," her manifesto proclaimed. She combined her socialist principles with feminism: "I ask the electors to vote for me, and the non-electors to work for me because women are wanted on the Board and there are too few women candidates." Besant came out on top of the poll in Tower Hamlets, with over 15,000 votes. She wrote in the National Reformer: "Ten years ago, under a cruel law, Christian bigotry robbed me of my little child. Now the care of the 763,680 children of London is placed partly in my hands."


John Bedford Leno joint editor of the Uxbridge Spirit of Freedom, and Working Man's Vindicator establsihed a branch of the Chartists at Windsor