Queen Coal? Why Remember Women of the 1984/85 Miners' Strike

Negative Responses to Women's Campaigning

The extract below is a transcript from an unpublished book, Women Of the Coalfields, a collection of memories from miners' wives who were active in 'Women Against Pit Closures' movement. The transcript is held in the Women's Library, London in The Betty Heathfield Papers.

"I've been on picket lines where the women have taken their babies and children with them and I don’t think it’s wrong. You couldn't just leave your baby in the house you took it with you. You didn't actually teach your children to say ‘pigs’ but if your children heard you shouting something, they would shout it as well.

"I think that was part and parcel of the language that was used in that struggle. And if that struggle is on behalf of your children and they become part of that struggle – they’ll remember that when they grow up. A lot of miners and miners wives were brought into court for using language that was used.

"For instance, in Nottinghamshire you were not allowed to say ‘scab’ on a picket line. And I've got friends who were actually arrested for saying that word even though there was one court case where the Judge in Court had said ‘This word is not abusive and it is part of the English language and you are allowed to use it.’ But in Nottinghamshire you weren't.

"You could be summonsed and fined very heavily and sometimes put in prison for using it. It’s like the word 'bastard', which the police in this area objected to women using. But again, taken in the context that they understood it was that, if you look at the dictionary meaning it means a person who was outside the actual legal family. And they were people who were outside our family. And so in the sense that you used it, that word was legitimate. . .

"The language that the press used against us was much more diabolical. We were called ‘mobs’. We were called ‘enemies within’. So the other side had its language as well. And if you were a striking miner you were called a ‘Militant’. If you were a working miner you were called a ‘Moderate’.

"So they had their own language as well. And nobody took them to court for the language they used against us. So why should we feel guilty about having language about a policeman?"

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