The Rockwell team are very active in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and have been privileged to get to know members of the community very closely. Like many parts of London, the Borough benefits from a huge reserve of people working at the grassroots level to improve the everyday lives of those who live there. One such person is Cllr Victoria Obaze, Speaker for the Borough and organiser of a charity afternoon tea for International Women’s Day on 5 March 2020.
The afternoon also provided an opportunity to celebrate the role which women from Tower Hamlets have had in shaping our world. Held on the 39th floor of One Canada Square, overlooking the Borough, this event was attended by inspirational women from the local area and beyond, including businesswomen, charities, Councillors and MPs. It was a privilege to hear first-hand the stories of women in the borough; their tales of struggle and also of triumph.
One of the most prominent historical moments for the Borough’s women was the Matchstick Girls’ Strike of 1888. The strike saw 1,400 women and teenage girls working in a matchstick factory – “The Matchstick Girls” – strike against poor working conditions, 14 hour working days, low pay, excessive fines and severe health complications following dismissal of a colleague. Despite failed strikes elsewhere, within a few days the full factory workforce was refusing to work, becoming the first-time unskilled workers of any gender successfully united to achieve better pay and working conditions, inspiring unions across the country. It went on to inspire the London Dock strike, also in the Borough and only a year later, that saw 100,000 strikers and marked a pivotal moment in Victorian Britain.
The event was a huge success and great inspiration, which we were delighted to attend, and highlights the important role that women from the Borough have both locally and far beyond its boundaries. Long may it continue!