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By MICK ROBERTS ©
THE wives, and mothers and daughters of the Illawarra’s coal miners became powerful voices in the great industrial union movements of the late 19th century.
They rallied behind their men folk with unbound enthusiasm showing overwhelming support in their industrial battles of the 1880s and 90s.
Unionism had been around in the Illawarra since 1878 but it was not until the 1880s women made a dramatic enrichment towards working conditions for their sons and husbands.
Violent incidents were common on NSW coalfields, especially against non-unionists. Such incidents often started with women shouting threats and beating tins (tin kettling) or throwing stones, with the men prepared to enter the fray if non-unionists or police challenged the women. Cutting telegraph wires, barricading road and rail, intimidating non-strikers, and tarring and feathering were strategies used by the unionists.
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