Tube Town

Women, Work & Wednesbury

Women, Work & Wednesbury is a publication made by artist Sophie Huckfield that contains research and interviews with local women about their role in Wednesbury’s industrial past and present.

What is ‘work’? When we say work, we often think of work existing in a specific place or done by a specific person or industry. In the conversation around industrial work, and even in work more widely, women are often omitted. Women have always worked: whether in the home raising children and having housework responsibilities, or on the factory floor, in offices or working in pubs and shops and in other professions. In the story of Wednesbury’s industrial past and future, women were and remain an integral part of working life.  Women are still expected to not only maintain a job but to do the majority of care work and housework.   

Much of women’s working-class history goes unrecorded; this small publication records different aspects of women’s experiences of working life in Wednesbury. From historic accounts to interviews with women who have worked in a range of industries. locally and domestically.  

Beyond the goods manufactured on the factory floor, social ‘production’ was also taking place in, and outside, the factory and women were a key part. 

Wednesbury, Woden’s Town

by Ian Henery

Real history is not just his-story; it's a collective conciousness of souls striving together, 
running for that goal. It's her-story, your-story,
our-story. Woden's Town - a pre-Christian 
deity and the oldest part of the Black Country. Where people work to find greater glory.
Woden - the one-eyed pagan God of War also gave his name to nearby Wedensfield,
Scene of great slaughter where Vikings did yield, Mercia reverting to English law.
Woden, All Father, Wednesday in the week, his followers were not timid or meek,
these Anglo-Saxon settlers on our shores.
The underworld to realms of mortal men rode Woden on Sleipnir, mythical horse,
Eight-legged beast, settling scores by force. Order restored, the world better again,
Woden mediating on land and sky, Sleipnir his steed, a war horse that can fly,
Returning All Father back to Heaven.
Woden with one eye like a monocle saw two battles, Mercia and Wessex:
Wessex lost, Mercia had the success. All in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
Athelflaed, daughter of Alfred the Great, fortified the town, made safe her estates,
No more war that was diabolical.
Coal seams, the canals, railways - Black Country. Nail making, factories and deep coal mines
Exported new-found wealth down railway lines. Old Woden`s Town had become Wednesbury,
The world`s tube-making capital, "Tube Town", Industry winning a place of renown through 
working class fire, forge and foundry.
Tubes are street art at Wednesbury Bus Station, Silent sentinels in Loxdale Street:
A reminder of the tube worker's feator trade unions across the nation.
Wednesbury, not just a home for Morrisons but the tube makers, James Russell and Sons,
highlighting trade union relations.
1913 was the tube workers' strike, A better wage and living conditions
And just trade union recognition:
200 workers now in the spotlight, soon 40,000 in fraternity,
National support, food and charity,
A pivotal chapter in workers' rights.
Union victory for rank and file, Bosses defeated, a time of hardship,
Before improved working relationships after 3 months of campaigning and bile.
Hand outs, the difference between life and death, Children starved and women gave their last breath,
Living conditions best described as vile.
Woden's horse, Sleipnir, flies over us still, A stainless statue, tail like a flame,
The town's fiery past, industry and fame, leaping out from the metro on the hill,
Symbol of Wednesbury's dynamism - Like coloured light shining through a prism - 
Famous for our people and our steel mills.
Sleipnir travels across time, land and sea, Rooted in the earth, launching into air,
Challenges met for those who want to dare.
Big plans for the future, dream endlessly, A people of industry, this the cast.  
Eyes on tomorrow, honouring the past,
A furnace in the hearts of Wednesbury.