No. 23 of 27 Poems for International Women’s Day 2015

  On The Bridges


Save a thought for the married woman

Who has trouble defining a cuddle

Who straightens her back to haul water

In cogs

To men at their higher tables

Then eats alone in her kitchen


Strength to the wedded child bride

Who lost her place on earth

Through a rung out and brain washed


Genitally mutilated

Before her breasts became bargains


Force be with the mother millions

Who have trouble remembering joy

And fearlessly sneak grain

From man guarded sacks

For what child hangs on their frame


Rise up the other hemisphere women!

Assemble on your bridges

Adorn your skin with tattoos and piercings

Swap polyester pinafores for First Nations weaves.


Let fly the purple and green pamphlets

Over mosque domes and church spires

Megaphone your messages into havens

For the mother-deprived, sprawled and urban


Keep up the momentum

Bus in the hijabs and the full-stretched cleavage

The jeggings, the burqas, the suburban sisters

Refresh the statistics and the real situation

On the bridges for every nation.


Jerry and Zeppelins.

Was that an eminent writer aka historian of east London giving a talk or was it a drop-in session for coffee cup holding hairies and mobile-charging fidgets?

Never seen the like.

The Whitechapel Idea Store was buzzing. Who designed that dirty -looking box of a building? My friend couldn’t find it ; the second biggest monolith on the block. Volunteers working cheerily for the Literary Festival were everywhere as were the free pens and coffee.

Jerry White started his presentation quietly and I thought we thirty people were in for an hour of seat-numbing boredom. Not so. That man knows his stuff and kept on  target. Very happy I attended despite people going in and out of the swing doors,. Doesn’t that look rude to other people? Some great questions about WW1 and the people living through it came from the floor. There were the inevitable questions about the role of women and them pesky Suffragettes. The conversation swung to the fact that opponents to the Great War were compliant and ceased their noise-making. I was forced to stand on my feet, mic-less and declare that history records through accounts and records the considered opposition by the dangerous women of the WILPF, The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Stamp that floor and clap those hands. True to form the male historian wasn’t too up on that WILPH stuff. That’s exactly how history or herstory here gets hidden. Jerry’s book panders to the loveliness of multi-culture and he was quite rehearsed in talking about the Chinese of Limehouse and the Lascars of Wapping and their Legacy.

Whatevs. It was jolly good because we the public were well-received and the acts are first-class…Gentle Author tomorrow. Yay!

A day of wars.

St Pauls’ Crypt was most sedate today, not full of thronging crowds for a while and it had a lovely golden glow. Huge plane tree leaves had settled on the stone steps leading down to the Wren Suite where Up Your Streeters had been booked in for a talk about how St Paul’s was protected during The Blitz. There were artefacts too. I had to leave to show my face at the London School of Economics Library in Portugal Street Holborn area. All I smelt was corn on the cob as I  avoided stoooodents with their disposables full of corn and whatever can be spiced and sold. It was dinner time.

I needed to get to the Library to show willing for a last minute worry-laden group booking with the Clapham Film Unit. I went on ahead whilst the other women could grab a black taxi to get to the course in time after they’d enjoyed St Paul’s talk. Which they did.

Today’s learning was promised to be all about the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom aka WILPF , said like that, and that learning would be conducted through research through The Women’s Library archives from 1915. It’s a pertinent project because all the glory days of WW1 and all the media coverage of carnage are commemorated this year but peace missions are certainly not.

What a bunch we were today made up of CND supporters, oral herstorians, women with years of experience of Feminist ideologies and actions, those with knowledge of banners, badges and ribbon colours, and recently trained East London Docks’ researchers

mrs barton

The process involves choosing a WILPF member from back in the day and finding out more. We,  Jill Public, research, hand in our work then stand back as someone produces a documentary showing us dressed to heal, spouting militant and sensible herstorical  speeches. Then we get a trip to Tilbury Docks. Yay!.lse ang and rad

Homework done.

“My husband Alfred whom I married in 1894 was just twelve when he went to work in a public library where he was born in Bedfordshire. His father, my father-in-law, was a foundry worker. I was born Stockton. My parents and family called me Nellie. Alf was my brother Herbert’s best friend.  I went along to Socialist League meetings at Preston Gates in Manchester which were quasi-anarchist meetings I was always with my brother and Alf so was chaperoned if you like. Alfred worked as  a clerk and my brother was an odd-job man. Later he was an industrial insurance agent running a draper’s shop too. Bert went to prison because of his fight for free speech.

                    Alf and I moved to Sheffield in 1897. I was only 25 then. By that time I was calling myself an Anarchist-Communist like Bert and Alf liked to be known. They were two brave men everyone said. George Cores, an anarchist organiser in London said I was “charming”.
                   I was born in 1872 just after the first women’s suffrage committee was formed and I married when I was 22. Alfred died when he was about 65 in 1933 and I emigrated to New Zealand. I can’t remember if I went from Tilbury Dock or not.
                At the ripe old age of 48 I was the first woman to be elected to Sheffield Council. At the same time Nancy Astor was the first woman to get into Parliament. I stood as Labour candidate for Attercliffe in the 1920 council elections in Sheffield. Of course Attercliffe was where women’s suffrage was already aired. We women activists because that’s what we were, called ourselves “sisters” or “Beloved sisters”.
                   I had been the secretary of the Brightside and Carbrook’s Hillsborough branch. That was a branch of the Sheffield Cooperative Movement. I was in The Women’s Cooperative Guild. Now that started in 1885 three years mind before even men had the vote. I rose up to become a director of the Sheffield Co-op.
               On the 4th August 1914, I was at the second anti-war for peace rally in Kingsway Hall, London and as president of the Women’s Cooperative Movement I addressed the audience. It was 100% a successful meeting. Keir Hardie got it all underway. Other speakers were Lawrence, Fawcett, Cadbury and others. I stood for peace and for working women, co-operation and the Labour Movement. There were plenty of us working women about. They billed me as “A worker for the workers”. I was honoured to be called that.
                                                                                                          researched by Gillian Lawrence. Nov 2014
References:- Sarah Irving in
                    S.Tumis        The British Women’s Peace Movement in Late Edwardian and Victorian Society.
David Stockton (England) – 2014 at Amazon reviews
I bought this as Eleanor Barton was my Great Aunt. Gillian Scott has gone to a lot of trouble to trace the history of the WCG and explains many things that are forgotten now about the women’s movement and womens issues. The WCG starts is 1885 before the MEN had the vote(1888 for half the men and they could only vote for the sons of lords in parliament.) She explains the problems that after the WOMEN got the vote it was necessary to aline with parliamentary politics and not only be a women’s movement. Very good book and if G. Scott is reading this thank you very much for writing it. It must have taken a couple of years work.”