Women's Liberation

Rebellious Daughters: Mother Jones & Bhikaiji Rustom Cama

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In the second of our monthly series we celebrate the lives of union organiser Mother Jones and India independence leader Bhikaiji Rustom Cama

Mary "Mother" Jones (1837-1933) was born Mary Harris in 1837 in County Cork, Ireland. Her father Robert fled to Canada after taking part in a revolt against the landowners.

Mary became a schoolteacher but was barred from most schools because she was a Catholic. She later moved to Chicago and worked as a dressmaker.

She met George Jones, an iron worker and union organiser, in 1861 and they married and had four children. Sadly George and the four children died in a yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in Autumn 1867.

Sojourner Truth & Elisabeth Dmitrieff - Rebellious Daughters #1

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We begin a monthly celebration of some of the most dynamic, fighting women from history.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) was born a slave in New York and named Isabella Baumfree. She was bought and sold four times and subjected to harsh physical labour and violent punishments. In her teens, she was united with another slave with whom she had five children.

Between 1826-27 Truth ran away with her infant Sophia to a nearby abolitionist family. The family bought her freedom for $20 and helped Truth successfully sue for the return of her five-year-old-son Peter, who was illegally sold into slavery in Alabama. She was the first black woman to sue a white man.

Miss World 1970: Our aim was to stop the spectacle

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New film Misbehaviour, out this month, dramatises the protest at Miss World 1970. Jo Robinson, a participant, tells what happened on the night.

‘The lightning rod was that we all went to the first ever Women’s Liberation Conference in Oxford [in February 1970]. It was amazing. Sheila Rowbotham spoke, men ran a crèche. There were over 500 women – we couldn’t all fit in.
It was exciting because people were speaking about what it was like being a woman and the inequalities that we were feeling in life in general.

Putting the struggle back into International Women's Day

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Our celebration of women’s struggles begins by revealing the contrast between how capitalism has sought to commodify the event, and its origins in the fight against oppression. We then hear from activists around the world about their priorities in the fight for equality, respect and liberation. Interviews compiled by Jan Nielsen.

International Women’s Day has come a long way. It began as a militant, socialist protest against the inequality and exploitation endured by working-class women. It won the support of tens of thousands of working-class men and women, who marched and went on strike for the right to vote and equal pay. Today, it still has a radical edge in some parts of the world, but too often those radical origins are almost buried underneath a tide of tokenism and commodification.

Switzerland: ‘Real equality is far from being realised’

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The women’s strike on 14 June 2019 will long remain in the history of the women’s and workers’ movement in Switzerland. More than half a million people joined the demonstrations throughout the country. Some 70,000 marched in Zurich, 40,000 in Bern and Basel, 50,000 in Lausanne and more than 20,000 in Geneva. The demonstrations were no less impressive in smaller cities like Sion, Neuchatel and Fribourg, where 12,000 took to the streets. All answered the call issued by the “Women’s Strike Collective”.

The strike that shook Glasgow to the core

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In the final part of her series on women workers in struggle, Jane Hardy talks to women who organised and took part in a successful strike over equal pay.

An explosion of anger from women council workers in Glasgow culminated in a two day strike in October 2018 that closed down the city. The women had run out of patience when the Scottish National Party (SNP) minority council failed to deliver on its promise of rectifying equal pay cases that had lasted over a decade.

Home care workers have shown the way to fight

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In the second part of her series on women workers, Jane Hardy celebrates the Birmingham home care workers’ inspiring fight.

Women have been at the frontline of austerity since the 2008 financial crisis. A TUC report showed that cuts in the public sector have meant falling wages, underemployment and casualisation. But care workers in Birmingham, mainly women, have taken on their bosses who have bullied them, tried to impose atrocious working practices, slash their wages and dismantle their service.

The fight for equal pay

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In the first of a three-part series, Jane Hardy sets out the history of women’s struggle for equal pay, which is longer than you might think. In the next installments she will look at more recent battles.

Despite the huge expectations raised by the Equal Pay (1970) and Sex Discrimination (1975) Acts, four decades later the gains for women in the workplace are mixed. Between 1975 and 1995 only 2,000 cases under the equal pay legislation were taken to court. By the 21st century it became clear that discriminatory pay for women was alive and kicking. The restructuring of pay grades in local authorities in the name of equality had, in some cases, left women with worse pay than men.

How austerity hurts women

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Underlying the sexism women experience is a structural oppression based on women’s role in the family, exacerbated by austerity, writes Jan Nielsen

The #MeToo campaign has rightly shone a glaring light on the misogyny and discrimination that women experience. Less publicised has been the striking increase in inequality that women are experiencing as a result of austerity, cuts to services and changes to the benefits system.

Recent government statistics show that women will shoulder a startling 85 percent of the burden of the government’s cuts to social security and tax changes by 2020. They also show that women’s incomes are being hit twice as hard as men’s as a result of changes to the tax and benefit system.

What has #MeToo achieved?

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The #MeToo phenomenon is still going strong, but what exactly are its demands, and how can we judge what it has achieved so far? Sally Campbell assesses the trajectory of the movement.

In September Christine Blasey Ford bravely and matter-of-factly testified before a senate hearing about her accusation of attempted sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The next day president Donald Trump, at a rally, mocked Blasey Ford and bemoaned that “A man’s life is shattered”. He said of her and her supporters, “They destroy people. They want to destroy people. These are really evil people.”

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