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Bridport’s ‘Wildcat Strikers.’

More than 100 years ago, women workers in Gundry’s rope factory in Bridport ‘downed tools’ and went on strike.

In February 1912, this dispute broke out when the employer wanted to change pay rates which would have resulted in some women being paid less. After marching around the town singing songs, they assembled outside the factory gates to dissuade others from entering the works. Factory manager Mr Macdonald suggested that West Dorset’s Conservative MP Colonel Robert Williams should be appointed as an arbitrator to resolve the dispute. The women turned this proposal down believing this appointment would favour the employer too much. The strike continued and nine pounds thirteen shillings and eight pence (£9.68) was donated by the public and distributed among the strikers. (This sum would be worth around £1,300 today.)

Ada Newton, an officer in the National Federation of Women Workers, arrived in Bridport from London and convened a meeting of strikers in the Hope & Anchor pub in Bridport. Seventy women joined the trade union. This was a general trade union which was open to women across a range of industries where women predominated and the wage rates were low. Miss Newton, an active campaigner for women’s rights, convened a meeting with Mr Macdonald, the factory manager and an agreement was reached which persuaded the women to return to work. As the Bridport News reported:

‘We are glad the dispute has been settled and trust everything will work smoothly and pleasantly in the future.’

(Source: Clarence Austin, the Photographer and the Bridport Wildcat Women by Carlos Guarita. 2015)


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