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First Women Delegates to the TUC: 1875

1875: The annual assembly of the Trade Union Congress held in Glasgow, for the first time admitted two women delegates.

Both the women delegates, Emma Paterson and Edith Simcox, had long been engaged in the struggle to advance the rights of women workers. They established numerous Trade Unions for shirtmakers, tailoresses and tailors, nailmakers, bookmakers, miners, metallurgists, tenants and lodgers, and hammermen. They established these unions in London, Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield, and Portsmouth.

Emma Paterson (1848-1886) née Smith, worked as a bookbinder and teacher before becoming assistant secretary of the Working Men's Club and Institute Union in 1867. In 1872, she became secretary of the Women's Suffrage Association, but left when she married in 1873. During a visit to the USA she was impressed by unions organised solely by and for women, and in 1874 she founded the Women's Protective and Provident League (later the Women's Trade Union League) with the aim of establishing unions in every trade in which women worked. By her death, over thirty had been established in dressmaking, bookbinding, millinery and other trades.

She continued to attend the annual assembly of the TUC regularly until her death. Although a supporter of the Factory Inspectorate (and argued for women inspectors to be appointed), as with many other feminists she was opposed to protective legislation exclusively for women which she saw as restricting their access to higher paid jobs and inappropriate when women had no political influence to frame such legislation.

Edith Simcox (1844 – 1901) established a reputation as an educator and author. She wrote on a broad range of subjects—her article on the influence of John Stuart Mill's writings was of particular interest to all those engaged in the struggle to improve the social and economic position of workers. One reviewer of her literature categorized her as a "scientific rationalist." She was well known as a lecturer at workmen's clubs, and had the practical experience of managing a small cooperative shirt-making enterprise - Hamilton and Company, established in July, 1875 in collaboration with Mary Hamilton. The company was a cooperative that hired only women.



Wijngaards Institute for Catholic ResearchThis website is maintained by the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research.

The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

Visit also our websites:Women Deacons, The Body is Sacred and Mystery and Beyond.

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