Report on the International Women’s Day Meeting held at Hamilton House, Saturday 9 March 2019
The meeting began with Amy Johnson (named after the aviator) quoting that, “Over a third (37%) of female students of mixed-sex schools have personally experienced some form of sexual harassment at school” from the recently published report on sexism in schools – and how we tackle it – “It’s just everywhere”. (National Education Union and UK Feminista, 2017). She summarised the findings from the report and questions were answered by the panel where it was stressed that this is not just a matter for female students and teachers but included everyone. She reminded the meeting that as teachers, our members’ working conditions are our young people’s learning conditions.
The next speaker to address the meeting, Sally Groves, author of ‘Trico: A Victory to Remember’ recalled how her book had been a work in progress for more than 40 years, with other participants adding their written and oral histories to her account. The end result was a story of the growing power of a group of workers standing together, becoming organised with the strength of unionisation and collective bargaining which lead to a successful outcome for the engineering factory workers who went on strike for improved wages and working conditions.
The third speaker, Peggy-Anne Fraser, actor, BECTU member and vice-chair TUC LESE Women’s Rights Committee spoke of the experiences of Women from the Windrush generation who arrived in London in 1948/49 (coinciding with the formation of the NHS) to be housed in air-raid shelters and faced racism in their work as well as their search for accommodation and even now are facing forced repatriation. Several children of the Windrush generation who were attending the meeting spoke of the hardships and discrimination that their own parents had faced as they willingly took on the work that was available to them.
In the afternoon energetic and lively Rachel Kolsky, who has led several TUC walking tours, took a large group to look at the social history and the part women had played in the Kings Cross area starting from Hamilton House. Amongst the names of well known literary, academic and scientific women who had lived, campaigned and worked in the area were those of Mary Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Louisa Aldrich Blake (surgeon) Dorothy Richards and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. If you get a chance to join one of Rachel’s walks do, as she is always entertaining as well as extremely knowledgeable.
Anne Leech, Equalities, Surrey NEU
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