Conversations with Radical Women
Manchester’s Bernadette Hyland quotes Eddie Frow, who cofounded the Working Class Movement Library with Ruth Frow, as the inspiration behind her decision many years ago to take up writing when he said: “There’s workers history and there’s bosses history.”
Such advice was not wasted as Hyland has done an excellent job in Northern ReSisters, producing a highly readable 80 page book of workers history that combines contemporary interviews with nine northern England radical women – chosen due to their involvement in resistance movements – along with a selection of her own writings stretching back to 1988 and starting with a piece on the Irish in Britain Representation Group. (IBRG) The author was a highly active member of the IBRG, which campaigned for the Irish in Britain to be represented in all areas of society and for a peaceful and just settlement in the North of Ireland.
In 1991, Hyland conducted a highly informative interview with Bernadette Devlin (McAliskey), whose sensational election in 1969 as MP for the Mid-Ulster constituency marked a significant turning point in the fight against the ingrained discrimination of the Northern Irish State.
23 years later, Hyland takes as her example suffragettes who, using the motto “if women don’t count, we won’t be counted,” disappeared from their homes on census night in 1911. She asks “what would women vanish for in 2014?” in their fight to change a still increasingly unfair society.
Betty Tebbs was born in 1918, joined a union at aged 14, became active in campaigning against nuclear weapons in 1946 and even today regards “the struggle for peace as vital if we are to secure any quality of life for young people or future generations.” Other women who are interviewed are involved in the trade union movement, the fight against the bedroom tax and the organising of commemorative events such as the one in Manchester each August for Peterloo 1819. All are seeking a better, fairer, more democratic society right across the world and the issue of internationalism rightly burns strong in Northern ReSisters.
Costing £5.95 the book is published by the Mary Quaile Club