Greenham Women: 22 March 1982

Several women are seated on the ground with peace signs whilst a man and a police man attempt to move them

On 22 March 1982, around 250 women block access to the airbase at Greenham Common in the UK. It is the first time the women’s peace camp has put non-violence to the test on a large scale, and 34 women are arrested. By the end of 1982, 30,000 women would arrive for the ’embrace the base’ protest. By 1983, over 100 similar peace camps are set up near nuclear sites around the world.

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Illustrated Women fanzine for #WHM2019

Since we started compiling our database of things women achieved on this day in history, we have discovered many, many women we had not known about. Moira has written about one of them, Althea Gibson, for this year’s Illustrated Women in History Women’s History Month fanzine.

The site and zine are produced by Julie Gough, who is attempting to illustrate one women a week to learn more about women in history and celebrate their accomplishments. ‘zines, and women’s use of them to get their messages out, is something we’re big fans of so we are delighted to contribute a biog of Althea.

You can find out more about who the zine features this month over at Julie’s website, or click straight to her etsy shop to buy a copy!

We may well come back to Althea here: probably around the time the English media gets excitable about Wimbledon!

Frances Perkins

On 4 March 1933 Frances Perkins is sworn in as Secretary of Labour in Washington DC. She became the first woman to hold a cabinet post in the USA, and holds it until 1945.

Francis Perkins signing to become Secretary for Labour. She is illuminated by a shaft of sunlight.

Perkins was a long time activist for workers’ rights, and did not moderate her advocacy to gain power. Before accepting the post, she presented Franklin D Roosevelt with a list of what she would seek to achieve. She told him she would seek a 40 hour working week, a minimum wage, unemployment and workers’ compensation, the abolition of child labour and universal health care. By the time she left government, she had achieved all but the last of these. She’s behind what protections US workers have in the workplace. She is seen as the architect of FDR’s New Deal: a programme of work that provided relief, reform and recovery for the USA after the Great Depression.

Frances Perkins was born in Boston in 1880. After college she became a teacher, but her passion was to improve the lives of working women. In 1909, she was investigating childhood malnutrition among school children in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and had moved to Greenwich Village. Having studied economics and political science, by 1910 she was lobbying for better working hours and conditions as the head of the New York Consumers League.

Then, in 1911, she was having tea with friends in Washington Gardens when they heard fire engines. Perkins ran to the scene at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, only to witness 47 workers – mostly young women – jumping from the eighth and ninth floors of the building. The company had locked the fire escapes to prevent workers taking breaks. In total, 146 people died. The youngest was 14. And Francis Perkins found her cause. She later said it was the day the New Deal was born.

“I had to do something about unnecessary hazards to life,
unnecessary poverty. It was sort of up to me.”

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Women’s History Month 2019

All this March, we’ll be blogging weekly about a woman – or women – who made history in that week. As well as looking at what she did that day, we’ll look at the impact of her actions and what led her to it.

Women’s stories are part of our histories: tell them to anyone who will listen.