Women in the Miners’ Strike

29 February 2020 – 3 January 2021 at the National Coal Mining Museum for England

The 1984/5 Miners’ Strike pitted the National Union of Mineworkers against Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in a struggle for the future of Britain. The story of the strike has often been told from the perspective of men, but in a brand new exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, opening Saturday 29 February, visitors will be able to see how the women of the coalfields also played a vital part in making history during this year of struggle.
Whether they made up food parcels, or went out to work to bring in a wage – whether they stood on picket lines or supported husbands behind the scenes – indeed, whether they gave their support to the strike, or came out in opposition against it – women were as important as men in this dispute.

In 2018 and 2019, a team of researchers from University College London and the University of Reading conducted interviews in coalfields from Kent to Fife, from South Wales to South Yorkshire, in order to record women’s experiences in the strike. These interviews form an important new archival collection at the National Coal Mining Museum, recording not just women’s experiences in the strike, but all aspects of coalfield women’s lives.

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite from University College London said “This special exhibition at the Museum allows visitors to hear from these women, in their own words, about life during the strike. You’ll hear about soup kitchens, picket lines, and marches, but also about what day-to-day life was like in the home. About how women took on extra work outside the home to make ends meet, and struggled to make meals when they had almost no money coming in. And you’ll hear from women in Nottinghamshire, a divided county where most miners decided to keep working through the strike: some women here supported the strike, and others opposed it. In the exhibition, you can also watch a video of South Yorkshire women and their husbands discussing the strike, see posters from the time, and photos of women and communities in the strike taken by Keith Pattison and John Harris.

Anne Bradley, Curator of Social and Oral History at the National Coal Mining Museum for England said “This is a story that will strongly resonate with people who had friends and family working in the mining industry and many of our visitors. It is a vital piece of work that will shed new light on a period of time that it would be all too easy to be seen as purely a man on man conflict. We are delighted that they are donating the archival collections from their research as it will help us to continue to tell the story in mining in unique and inspiring ways.

The Exhibition will run at the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield from 29 February 2020 – 3 January 2021. Admission to the Exhibition is free but the Museum welcomes the contributions, financial and otherwise, that the public make to help continue to tell the stories of coal mining.

Black and white photo of women cooking and serving food to people during the Miner's Strike by Keith Pattison

Image ©Keith Pattison