The Matchgirls' Strike is regarded as a hugely significant event in labour history and two key players are known to have local links.

The female sewing machinists strike of 1968 at the Ford Dagenham plant resulted in the Equal Pay Act 1970. Their story was told in the 2010 film Made in Dagenham.

In London’s East End the female workers at the Bryant & May match factory had a successful strike in 1888 that was equally significant.

Two members of the eight woman Strike Committee, Sarah Chapman and Kate Sclater, have local links. Sarah, born in the East End, was one of the main strike organisers. Kate Sclater is thought to be one of the two women standing behind the seated woman bottom right in the strike committee photograph (below).Daily Echo:

Samantha Johnson, her great granddaughter, lives in Highfield with her husband Graham. They only found her unmarked grave in 2017. It is now under threat of 'mounding' which involves the removal of old graves, the addition of more soil on top, and the digging of new ones.

A petition with almost 9,000 supporters has been launched by the family and can be found at

Graham Johnson said: “We are promoting memorials in the East End to all the Matchgirls, and hope we can get a plaque to Kate Sclater in Southampton.”

Kate was born in Southampton and her surname has the unusual addition of the letter ‘C’. Kate’s father, William Sclater from Exeter married Ellen Jane Blake from Southampton in 1859. By 1861 they were living with Ellen’s widowed mother at 29 Houndwell Gardens, St Mary’s. Kate Sclater was born in 1863 and by 1871 they were at 26 Dock Street, Southampton. Her family moved to London around 1873.

There are two other local connections - Jane Addams, the Chicago social reformer and Nobel Peace Prizewinner, visited the East End in 1888 and went to Matchgirl meetings. She sailed to and from Southampton.

William Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, gave support to the Strike, went down with the Titanic which left Southampton on April 10, 1912.

At the junction of Sclater Street with Brick Lane a plaque reads ‘Sclater Street 1798’. This was London’s foremost bird market. It is thought that French Huguenots, some of whom had settled in Southampton, introduced the custom of keeping canaries.

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Bryant & May was formed in 1843 by two Quakers, William Bryant and Francis May. In the 1880s they employed nearly 5,000 people most of them female, many of them teenagers. At one time 250 million matches were used in Britain each day.

The white phosphorus used to make the matches caused yellowing of the skin, hair loss and phossy jaw, a form of bone cancer, caused by inhalation of phosphorus vapour. The whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging pus. If a worker complained of toothache, they were told to have the tooth removed immediately or be sacked. Death occurred in around 20 percent of cases.

Annie Besant (1847-1933) was a women’s rights activist and brilliant public speaker. In 1887 Annie joined forces with William Stead to establish the campaigning newspaper, The Link.

Annie discovered that the Matchgirls worked fourteen hours a day for a wage of less than five shillings a week. There was a system of fines, ranging up to one shilling. Offences included going to the toilet without permission.

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On June 23, 1888, Besant wrote an exposé article in The Link entitled White Slavery in London. She called the Bow Street factory a “prison house”. Bryant and May threatened to sue Annie Besant for libel and attempted to force their workers to sign a statement that they were happy with their working conditions. Some refused and 1,400 of the workers, some as young as 13, went on strike on July 5, 1888.

An eight woman Strike Committee was formed including Sarah Chapman and Kate Sclater.

By July 17, 1888 the Bryant & May Directors had agreed to all the demands.

In 1901 Bryant & May, announced it had stopped using dangerous white phosphorus. In 1908 Parliament passed an Act prohibiting its use in matches.

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Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .