The city of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England, has a reputation as one of the UK’s most cosmopolitan, radical, and open cities. I have blogged about protest in Brighton before, as well as the city’s role in the campaign for female suffrage. Brighton must also be home to a large number of sticker-ers, as the streets are covered in stickers of all kinds, including protest stickers. I have already blogged about the stickers I found on one walk down London Road, but I have found some other great stickers elsewhere in the city that I wanted to share.
Jeanne Theoharis. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Boston: Beacon Press, 2013). £16.99.
I buy a lot of books. To the extent that I cannot read books as fast as I buy them. As a result, I have a lot of unread books sitting on my bookshelves. Whenever I finish reading a book I go to my bookcase, look at all the unread books, and see which one takes my fancy to read next. A few weeks ago, it was the turn of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by Jeanne Theoharis. It has been sitting on my shelves since the great book-buying spree of ’15, during my trip to New York two years ago. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get round to reading it- I loved this book.
Theoharis starts this book at the end, with all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the funeral of Rosa Parks when she died in 2005. Perhaps one of the best known individuals in American history for her role in kickstarting the civil rights movement, Parks became a legend in her own lifetime. The quiet, soft-spoken seamstress who refused to give up her seat on the bus for a white man in Montgomery, Alabama is well known the world over. However, the legend of Rosa Parks bears only passing resemblance to the real woman. An activist all her life, her decision not to move on that bus was the result of years of anger and frustration at American injustice, not tired feet.
In this thoroughly researched, well-paced book, Theoharis details the life of a woman who was brought up with a sense of pride and her own self-worth, who was willing to stand up and defend herself if she was attacked. Along with others, Parks campaigned for civil rights in Montgomery for decades before her bus protest in 1955. The protest took its toll, leaving Parks, her husband, and her mother economically insecure and dealing with constant threats. In 1957, the family moved to Detroit, where Rosa continued to campaign for civil rights for the next four days. Whilst segregation was not legally enforced in northern US states, Parks saw it as just as pervasive as in the south, and continued to fight in any way she could.
In The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, Theoharis looks at the myth of Rosa Parks, considering its purpose and effects, then dismantles it, writing a biography of a life-long activist who was not afraid to ruffle some feathers. Rosa Parks was a fascinating woman who had a fascinating life; she was a great admirer of both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, and she supported both the civil rights movement and the more antagonistic Black Power movement. Parks threw herself into so many campaigns and activities that her life is like a slice though the struggle for racial equality in mid- and late-twentieth century America.
I think most people are familiar with the myth of Rosa Parks, and know that she was someone special. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks reveals that the reality is much more interesting than the myth.
Turbulent Londoners is a series of posts about radical individuals in London’s history who contributed to the city’s contentious past, with a particular focus of women, whose contribution to history is often overlooked. My definition of ‘Londoner’ is quite loose, anyone who has played a role in protest in the city can be included. Any suggestions for future Turbulent Londoners posts are very welcome. The 20th Turbulent Londoner is Jayaben Desai, the fierce and inspirational leader of the 1976-8 Grunwick Strike.
Throughout it’s history, London has relied on immigration to function. Jayaben Desai was one such immigrant, who refused to accept the long hours, low pay, and poor working conditions that have also been a feature of London for most of it’s history. She was one of the most prominent leaders of the Grunwick Strike, which
Born on 2nd April 1933 in the north-western state of Gujarat in India, Jayaben was defiant and headstrong from an early age. At school, she rejected passive obedience in favour of supporting the Indian independence movement. In 1955 she married Suryakant Desai, a tyre-factory manager from Tanganyika. The couple settled there in 1965, by which point the country had united with Zanzibar to become Tanzania. East African Asians were members of the mercantile and administrative classes, and Jayaben had a comfortable lifestyle. It did not last however, the Desais were expelled along with tens of thousands of others as part of “africanisation” policies. They fled to Britain and settled in the north London borough of Brent. The couples’ socio-economic status dropped considerably; Suryakant got a job as an unskilled labourer and Jayaben worked part time as a sewing machinist whilst bringing up their two children, Shivkumar and Rajiv. In 1974 Desai started work at the Grunwick factory which processed mail order photographic film.
Two years later, on 23rd August 1976, Jayaben walked out of the Grunwick factory. The final straw was being ordered to work overtime; she persuaded 100 of her colleagues to go with her. Jayaben was known for having a way with words; she apparently told her manager: “What you are running is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips. Others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager.”
Jayaben is known as being a trade unionist, but I don’t think that really does justice to what her and her colleagues achieved. They were not members of a union when they first walked out, the Trades Union Council advised them to join Apex, a white collar union that is now part of the GMB. The strikers were also mainly Asian and women, two groups who did not have a strong tradition of striking in the past.
Another factor which set the Grunwick strike apart was the solidarity that the strikers received from employees in other workplaces and industries. Newly arrived migrants accepted (and still do) long hours and low pay because they had no choice. This has frequently caused resentment amongst British workers. The Grunwick strikers, however, received significant moral and practical support from other workers. For example, postal workers in the local sorting office in Cricklewood refused to handle Grunwick’s post. As the factory processed mail-order photographs, this move almost won the strike for Jayaben and her colleagues. In November a High Court ruling forced the postmen to start handling Grunwick post again, a big blow to the strikers. The strike committee visited more than 1000 workplaces around the country garnering support- many workers came to join the picket lines outside the factory. On 11th July 1977 the TUC organised a 20000 strong march to the factory. The workers at Cricklewood again refused to handle Grunwick’s mail. They were suspended for 3 weeks for their defiant act of solidarity.
The Labour Prime Minister, James Callahan, persuaded the TUC and Apex to allow a court of inquiry under Lord Justice Scarman to resolve the dispute. It was highly unusual for employers to defy the conclusions of inquiry, but Jayaben was convinced that Grunwick’s managing director, George Ward, would. She was right; Scarman recommended that the strikers be given their jobs back and that their union be recognised. Ward refused. With few options left and almost two years of hardship behind them, the strikers conceded defeat on 14th July 1978.
After the strike, Jayaben’s health declined. She got another sewing job, which led to teaching for the Brent Indian Association, and she developed an Asian dressmaking course at Harrow College. She passed her driving test aged 60, and when her husband retired the couple traveled extensively. She passed away on 23rd December 2010.
At just 4ft 10in, Jayaben Desai shocked many with her strength and resolve. She was inspirational, and known for her charm, tact, and diplomacy, even in the face of aggression and threatening behaviour from police and the Grunwick bosses. Although the Grunwick strike failed, it had a big impact on industrial relations for women and ethnic minorities, forcing the union establishment to taken them seriously for the first time. Whilst Jayaben did not do this alone, her bravery and determination should be remembered, celebrated, and learnt from.
2016 was the 40th anniversary of the start of the Grunwick strike. The Grunwick40 group was set up to commemorate this event. They organised events, a museum exhibition, and a mural. More information can be found about their work here.
Sources and Further Reading
Dromey, Jack. “Jayaben Desai Obituary.” The Guardian. Last updated 23 February 2012, accessed 20 December 2016. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/dec/28/jayaben-desai-obituary
Pattinson, Terry.”Jayaben Desai: Trade Unionist Who Shot to National Prominence during the Bitter Grunwick Dispute of 1976-77.” The Independent. Last updated 21 February, 2011, accessed 24 December 2016. Available at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jayaben-desai-trade-unionist-who-shot-to-national-prominence-during-the-bitter-grunwick-dispute-of-2220589.html
Wikipedia, “Jayaben Desai.” Last updated 17 December 2016, accessed 20 December 2016. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jayaben_Desai
A few weeks ago, I started drafting the conclusion of my PhD thesis. I had absolutely no idea where to start, so I hit Twitter and Google looking for advice. I tweeted the PhDForum asking for advice, and got a brilliant response. As well as loads of good advice, it also gave me an emotional boost, reminding me that I am not going through the PhD process alone. I also found some great blog posts and websites. So I thought I would put a few of the best tweets and links together in a post of my own, in case they were of any use to anyone else.
I used Twitter’s newfangled Moments feature to collect up all the Tweets I received, they can be found here.
And links to the blog posts and websites I found, with a short description, are here:
The WritePass Journal: Writing your PhD Thesis Conclusion A nice short summary of what a PhD conclusion should do, what it should include, and some top tips. Also has links to other advice on how to write conclusions. WritePass is an organisation that students can pay to write essays etc. for them, but the WritePass Journal provides helpful advice on a range of topics, for undergraduates as well as graduate students.
Patter: What Not to do in a Conclusion, Part One: Christmas Present Five A discussion of four common mistakes in thesis conclusions.Patter is a blog run by Pat Thomson, a Professor of Educatuon at the University of Nottingham. It is a great source of advice for all aspects of academia. Conclusion Mise-en-place. Christmas Present Six A blog post about preparation you can do before writing your conclusion to make the writing go more smoothly. It poses six questions to answer before you start writing.
Global PAD Open House: Writing a Conclusion Not quite as relevant as the other posts mentioned here, as it its about conclusions generally rather than just focusing on a PhD thesis. However, it does talk about the need to be interesting and avoid being too formulaic, which I think could be an easy trap to fall into when other advice pretty much gives you a checklist to follow. Global PAD Open House is developed and maintained by staff in the Centre of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick.
PhD Talk: Writer’s Lab: How to Write your Conclusions, Part II: Doctoral Dissertation Provides some helpful practical tips, such as putting all your chapter conclusions into one document to use as a starting point. PhD Talk is a blog run by engineer Dr. Eva Longsoght and contains some really helpful advice.
DoctoralWriting SIG: How to Make a Great Conclusion Recommends starting a folder for ideas about your conclusion about halfway through your PhD. For those already beyond that point, it has a freewriting task that might be helpful. Doctoral Writing SIG is a forum for those interested in doctoral writing.
James Hayton PhD: What Goes in the Introduction, What goes in the Conclusion? A brief blog post about the differences between an introduction and conclusion, which might be helpful if you are writing them both at roughly the same time. James Hayton is a PhD consultant.
Senate House Library is the University of London’s centralised library in Bloomsbury. The library has a small exhibition space which they use to display some of the library’s collections, around which public event series are organised. The current exhibition is on the theme of Radical Voices, so I felt almost obliged to go and check it out.
The exhibition is organised according to different ways in which dissenting opinion has been expressed through history, including posters, badges, poems, cartoons, and pamphlets. The items are displayed in glass cases, with labels detailing a bit of information about each form of communication.
One method of communicating dissent featured in the exhibition which was not illustrated with examples from the library’s collections was blogs. Examples of rebellious blogs were displayed using a large touch screen monitor. I liked this technique, as it did not alter the materiality of the blogs. Despite descending from printed pamphlets, blogs are a digital phenomenon, and displaying them in a more traditional format would have detracted from this.
The exhibition is fairly minimal in its labelling of the objects on display; some labels do not even have a date. If I had been paying more attention, I would have noticed that the free exhibition guide contained more information about each item, but I still think I would have preferred to have more basic information on the label.
The Radical Voices exhibition is small, but it provides an insight into the various ways that radical opinions can be expressed, as well as Senate House Library’s collections. If you’re in the area, and have a spare half an hour, I would definitely recommend a visit.