Women in the Miners' Strike
The miners’ strike pitted the National Union of Mineworkers against Margaret Thatcher’s government in a struggle for the future of Britain.
Most of the strikers were men, but a few women – cooks, cleaners, and office workers – went on strike too. The activism of women from mining families was vital to keeping the strike going for a full year. Women set up soup kitchens and distributed food parcels; they collected money, went on marches, gave speeches, and stood on picket lines.
Most women from mining families didn’t get involved in much, if any, activism, but many gave their support to the strike by keeping the home and family going, and going out to work to bring in a wage. Their stories have sometimes been overshadowed by the dramatic tales of women’s activism, but these experiences were also vital to keeping the strike going.
And not all women supported the strike. Some worked in the industry themselves, and some of these women chose to continue work. Others supported husbands and fathers who decided to work through the strike. Their experiences don’t fit into the usual stories told about women in the strike, but they too played a part in making history.
The story of the miners’ strike has often been told from the perspective of men. In 2018 and 2019, a team of researchers interviewed women from coalfields across Great Britain in order to record women’s experiences in the strike.
We curated a special exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, on display from 29 February 2020 to 3 January 20201. In this online version of the exhibition you can listen to some of the clips and watch the exhibition film.
With thanks to the AHRC, the National Coal Mining Museum for England, University College London, and the University of Reading. And above all thanks to all our interviewees, without whom this project would not have been possible. Find out more about what the project involved here.
Maerdy Women’s Support Group, South Wales. Copyright Martin Shakeshaft
Dalkeith Miners Women’s Support Group demonstrating in support of the strike. Copyright Scottish Mining Museum
Marilyn Johnson, Strike Kitchen at the Colliery Club, Easington, Co. Durham, August 1984. Copyright Keith Pattison