Dudley Council
Dudley Skyline

Angel of the Workers

women are unorganised because they are badly paid, and poorly paid because they are unorganised.

Early life

Born in Glasgow on 13 August 1880, Mary was the eldest of six children. She attended Glasgow Girls High School. After finishing school in Glasgow she spent time studying in Germany before returning to Scotland to work with her father as a book-keeper. 

She married William Crawford Anderson in 1911,  ten years after he first proposed. 

In 1903, Mary moved to London where she became Secretary of the Women's Trade Union League. She founded the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) in 1906. 

National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW)

The NFWW was formed in 1906 by Mary to organise women against the sweated industries and fight for the minimum wage. 

Women Chain Makers Strike

When the chain makers were denied the minimum weekly wage of 11s (55p) set by the Trades Board Act, Macarthur brought 800 women out on strike in 1910. 

The women went on strike for 13 weeks to fight for their right to a minimum wage. The dispute ended on 22 October when the last employer signed the White List - those employers who were members of the Chain Manufacturers' association agreeing to always pay the minimum rate. This was a landmark victory. 

While no wages were paid, a nationwide campaign raised £4,000 as a strike fund. After the strike's success a large part of the fund remained and it was decided to commemorate the women's struggle by building an institute in Cradley Heath. It served as a trade union headquarters, community education and social centre. 

Cradley Heath Workers' Institute

This red brick arts and craft building was opened by the Countess of Dudley in 1912. The architect was A.T. Butler, who was a local man. 

It was a busy building at the heart of the community. Not only was it used for Trade Union activity it was also used for socials, lectures and it had a billiard hall and a cinema. 

It was saved from demolition in 2006 and re-sited in 2008 at the Black Country Living Museum who also hold an annual Women Chainmaker's Festival. 

It stands as a landmark to one of the most significant achievements of British labour history