Artist Suzanne Lacy brings together key strikes and actions in the 1950s and 1960s in part one of a timeline ahead of her forthcoming BMW Tate Live project Silver Action at Tate Modern on Sunday 3 February. This document has been assembled by Echo Collins, with support from Margaretta Jolly, Luke Davies, and Suzanne Lacy.
1958 Notting Hill Race Riots
In August and September Teddy boys had attacked West Indian residences in Notting Hill. Gave birth to Notting Hill Carnival, founded in January 1959 as a response to the riots and the state of race relations in Britain at the time. The carnival was founded by two women as a way of healing and promoting cultural unity.
1968 Ford sewing machinists strike
This was a landmark labour-relations dispute. It ultimately led to the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970, the first legislation in the UK aimed at ending pay discrimination between men and women. June 1968 women sewing machinists in the Ford car plant in Dagenham took a stand for equal pay in a strike that stopped production for three weeks. They succeeded in getting abolished their lower ‘women’s rate’ of pay and precipitated wider action. There were other equal pay strikes that year and the National Joint Action Campaign Committee for Women’s Equal Rights (NJACCWER) was formed by women trade unionists, who organised a demonstration for equal pay in 1969. Equal pay had been a confused aspiration for the trade union movement since the mid nineteenth century when women’s work was seen as a threat to male employment and bans on married women working were supported by trade unions.
1968 Rights Not Charity March
Lesbian and gay disability rights activists, met with hostility, subsequently formed REGARD to support LGBT disabled people. One of their first moves was to fight for wheelchair access and sign language for the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.
1969 Women’s Equal Rights Demonstration
Organised by The National Joint Action Committee on Women’s Equal Rights (trade union organisation born of the Ford strike)
1969 Fisherman’s Wives Campaign
Campaigns by fishermen’s wives for safety improvements on fishing boats lead to women’s rights groups being formed in Hull: ‘Out of this opposition and the connections it had also for left middle class women, came the equal rights group in Hull. Though the working class women drifted off, it continued as a group and later organised a meeting for all the sixth-formers in the town on Women’s liberation.’ (Rowbotham 1972: 92)
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