Plaque for socialism pioneer

A plaque honouring trade unionist and socialist Jeannie Mole has been unveiled on Bold Street.

Donated by Liverpool City Council, the plaque was installed on Saturday (10 March) and acknowledges the integral role Jeannie played in bringing socialism to Liverpool, her dedication to upholding women’s rights in the workplace, and her work in improving the lives of those who lived in poverty.

It comes following a motion by Councillors Laura Robertson-Collins and Hetty Wood, which was approved at Full Council in November 2017.

Saturday’s event was organised by Lynn Collins, Secretary of the NW TUC, along with Cllrs Robertson-Collins and Wood. It saw Deputy Mayor Councillor Ann O’Byrne joined by a number of women including fellow councillors, trade union members and representatives from Liverpool University to celebrate the unveiling of the plaque on the street in which Jeannie Mole lived.

Cllr Robertson-Collins said: “Last year the city council agreed to commemorate the contribution of Jeannie Mole to the city and its women’s and trades union movements, by placing a plaque in Bold Street where she lived.

“It is fitting this installation takes place just days after International Women’s Day, and it also forms part of the city’s wider celebrations of the 150th year of the TU movement and the 100th year since partial women’s suffrage.”

Cllr Wood said: “I’m delighted this important woman campaigner who lived on Bold Street has been commemorated in Riverside Ward.”

 

Jeannie Mole (1841 – 1912)

Jeannie Mole was born in Warrington and lived in the US, before coming to live in Liverpool in 1879 where she started socialist propaganda meetings in her home (with the support of her husband and son) that led to the formation in 1886 of the ‘Worker’s Brotherhood’, the first socialist society in Liverpool.

 

The Brotherhood went on to help form the Liverpool branch of the Fabian Society in

1892, with Jeannie later serving as Vice President.

 

Jeannie supported strikes to improve workforce conditions for women, especially to remove fines imposed for minor misdemeanors, and campaigned to unionise women workers in Liverpool into female-only unions. Mole worked with the “Women’s Protective and Provident League” (WPPL), helping found a local branch, and in January 1889 helped set up the “Liverpool Workwomen’s Society” representing book-folders, tailors, and cigar-makers, trades where women made up over three-quarters of the workforce.

 

The society relaunched the following year as “Liverpool Society for the Promotion of Women’s Trade Unions”, expanding its membership to other trades partly due to Liverpool City Council’s inaction over “sweating systems” (systems exploiting the process of subcontracting piecework). Mole also helped set up specific unions, such as one for washerwomen, workers who were primarily Chinese.

 

In 1894 Mole helped found a Liverpool branch of the “Women’s Industrial Council” in which she was the secretary. The council helped form unions for female upholsterers and marine-sorters, and worked with the other groups set up by the Workwomen’s Society. Mole also stepped up inquiries into working conditions for women; for example, when an industrial accident killed a woman at the Old Swan Rope Works, Mole attended the case as secretary of the ‘Society for inquiring into the conditions of working women’ and ensured that a

factory inspector attended, that the jury made recommendations to prevent future accidents, and that compensation was paid to the woman’s next of kin.

 

Mole was a supporter of dress reform, a feminist movement against the cumbersome garments of the Victorian era, and would regularly wear an outfit reminiscent of Greek robes. Mole also set up and funded a socialist food van.