Cover image

Mary Macarthur and the Cradley Heath Women Chainmakers’ Strike of 1910

Teaching Resource Pack: In 1910, the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath focussed the world’s attention on the plight of Britain’s low paid women workers.


In their back yard forges, hundreds of women laid down their tools to strike for a living wage.

Led by the charismatic union organiser and campaigner, Mary Macarthur, the women’s struggle became a national and international cause célèbre. After ten long weeks, they won the dispute and increased their earnings from as little as 5 shillings (25p) to 11 shillings (55p) a week. Their victory helped to make the principle of a national minimum wage a reality.

Mary Macarthur proposed that surplus money in the strike fund should be used to build a ‘centre of social and industrial activity in the district’. Thousands of local people turned out for the opening of The Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute on 10 June 1912.

In 2004, the Workers’ Institute was threatened when plans for a bypass were announced. In 2006, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.535 million, the Institute was moved brick by brick to the Black Country Living Museum where it now stands as the last physical reminder of the women’s 1910 strike.

 Mary Macarthur speaking to a crowd during the 1910 Cradley Heath women chainmakers' strike

Women Chainmakers

If ever there was a moment in time to evaluate the progress made towards gender equality, that moment is now.

More resources
Back to top