The Burston Schoolchildren march in support of Kitty and Tom Higdon.
The longest strike in history was not staged by miners but by minors – the children of a small village in Norfolk.
Pictured: Tom and Kitty Higdon in 1938, not long before Tom’s death.
On 1 April, 1914, pupils of the Burston village school, supported by their parents, took to the streets in protest at the dismissal of their teachers, Tom and Kitty Higdon.
The strike lasted for over 25 years.
‘There really can be no peace or victory for us which does not bring with it freedom for the countryside, liberty and life for the labourer and prosperity and plenty to his home and family. The labourer must henceforth take his place industrially, socially and politically with the best and foremost of the land. He must do this himself – by the force and power of his union. And he can!
– Schoolteacher Tom Higdon, quoted in The Labourer, January 1917.
In 1902, a Parliamentary Education Bill was introduced offering education to ‘working-class children’. ‘Education’ in this sense meant little more than instructing children as to their place in society, preparing them for service or factory/agricultural work.
Though it’s often omitted from modern performances, the 1848 children’s hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ contained a second verse that spoke directly to the discontent among the working classes: ‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate / He made them, high or lowly, and ordered their estate.’ It was this sentiment that was felt to be of greatest benefit to the children.
But there were many educated Working- or Middle-class people who saw through the indoctrination and felt that every person, regardless of background, should be treated with equal respect – or rather, that a person’s breeding did not automatically guarantee them authority over ‘lower’ stock.
Photo: Kitty and Tom Higdon with their supporters. Kitty and Tom are seated.
Highly agricultural areas such as Norfolk were seen by the Agricultural Workers Union as ripe for recruitment.
Annie Katherine Schollick – known as ‘Kitty’ – was born in 1865 in Cheshire. Tom Higdon was born in 1869, the son of a Somerset farm labourer.
The pair were married in 1896 and eventually moved to Norfolk in 1902, the same year that the Education Act came into force.
They were proud of their beliefs as both Christians (Primitive Methodists) and Socialists, beliefs that made them idealists who hoped to use education as a means to making a better life for the next generation, rather in conflict with the thinking behind the Education Act as a means of preserving the status quo.
The Primitive Methodists were active Christians who fought for the low paid farm workers and their families and helped them to form their labour Unions.
The Higdons began teaching at Wood Dalling County School, near Aylsham in Norfolk, on 14 April, 1902, with Kitty appointed as headmistress and Tom as assistant teacher.
Almost immediately they found themselves at odds with the establishment, specifically the farm-owning managers of the school. In the view of the Higdons, the school was squalid and unsuitable for children to inhabit.
Furthermore, the land owners insisted on pulling children out of school whenever the seasons dictated that they needed cheap labour. Tom Higdon’s frustration with one land owner resulted in Tom being fined 40 shillings for assault.
By 1911, the Higdons found they were fighting a losing battle as the school managers refused to make concessions for the good of the children. The Norfolk Education Committee arranged that they be transferred to another Norfolk school, in the village of Burston, near Diss.
READ ON further via The Burston Strike School History – Burston Strike School
Forced by financial hardships to write, Fanny Trollope, who died 150 years ago, produced 40 novels and travel books at the rate of two a year. “Let it be as bad as it will, I shall get something for it,” was her attitude.
She was a natural. That she could rescue her debt-ridden menage this way was remarkable, but she also managed to voice principles and her instinct was always to defend the underdog.
She was a feminist before the word existed. She wrote one of the first novels in English about American slavery – The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw (1836).
In Domestic Manners of the Americans, she railed against the injustice meted out to Native Americans, too: “You will see them one hour lecturing their mob on the indefeasible rights of man, and the next driving from their homes the children of the soil, whom they have bound themselves to protect by the most solemn treaties.”
Trollope was one of those foreigners not taken in by the American dream: she came, she saw, and she returned to Europe (although for a time she was stuck in Cincinnati).
Trollope loved a spectacle, and was willing to make one of herself, too. For this, she was denounced as unfeminine and lacking in decorum. “Oh! … that ladies would make puddings and mend stockings!” Thackeray moaned after reading one of her books.
The novelist Elizabeth Lynn Linton was more indulgent, describing Trollope as”a vulgar, brisk and good-natured kind of well-bred hen wife, fond of a joke and not troubled by squeamishness.\”
The woman was undeniably brave, but what I like most about her is her curiosity. She talked to everybody and visited everything: mountains, cottages, waterfalls, schools, prisons, Viennese catacombs stuffed with corpses, and Congress, employing every means of travel then available (donkey, steamboat, raft, carriage).
She also had an eye and ear for the telling detail. Americans, she observed, were always spitting and never thanked anybody, and alligators actually ate people.
Her take on autobiographical fiction? “I draw from life – but I always pulp my acquaintance before serving them up. You would never recognise a pig in a sausage.”
via Fanny Trollope by Lucy Ellmann
Until now the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is largely believed to have been led by a mob of rebel men, but new research shows women played an important role in orchestrating violence against the government.
Today people are used to the idea of women being in the military. Some are already pressing for the right to fight on the front line.
But there’s a growing feeling historians have overlooked their role in medieval rebellions like 1381′s Peasants Revolt.
On 14 June 1381, rebels dragged Lord Chancellor Simon of Sudbury from the Tower of London and brutally beheaded him.
Outraged by his hated poll tax, the insurgents had stormed into London looking for him, plundering and burning buildings as they went.
It was the leader of the group who arrested Sudbury and dragged him to the chopping block, ordering that he be beheaded.
Her name was Johanna Ferrous.
In court documents she was described as “chief perpetrator and leader of rebellious evildoers from Kent”. She also ordered the death of the treasurer, Robert Hales.
As well as leading the rebels into London, she was charged with burning the Savoy Palace – the grandest townhouse in London at the time – and stealing a chest of gold from a duke.
So why are women like Ferrous largely hidden from popular history, yet charismatic rebel leaders such as the “mad priest” John Ball and Wat Tyler dominate in the history books?
Some historians now suggest that sexist attitudes permeated medieval history.
Saffiyah Khan staring down English Defence League protester Ian Crossland during a demonstration in Birmingham.
Image Credit: Photograph by Joe Giddens/PA
Shows of strength and defiance aren’t in short supply at your average protest – demonstrating, by its nature, requires a level of commitment that weeds out the bystanders.
But what is it that makes the money shot? The protest photo that goes viral?
Women, or, more accurately, one woman. Often a striking, beautiful-looking woman.
But mostly, a woman who looks like a badass and yet displays a quiet dignity.