The family of Sarah Chapman, one of the leaders of the 1888 Matchgirls Strike in East London, have devised a petition to save her grave and install a fitting memorial.
Graham Johnson, the husband of Chapman’s great-granddaughter, Sam, told the SSLH:
‘[Chapman] was a leader in the Matchgirls Strike of 1888 in East London. After a few weeks on strike, 129 years ago on 17th July, she and others met with the Directors of Bryant and May. The women argued for better terms and working conditions and the formation of their own union. The directors agreed, and by 6pm that day, the workforce had enthusiastically voted to accept the settlement.
‘Sarah went on to represent the new Union at the International TUC that year, and later.
‘We have recently found her grave, unmarked in a paupers area, Manor Park Cemetery, London. There is a possibility that the grave will be lost to “mounding over”, a technique to reclaim the land for new burials. The graves of her husband and daughter have already disappeared.
‘Sam has started a petition to save her GreatGrandmother’s grave and have a memorial to commemorate Sarah’s contribution to labour history. I invite you to sign it, and maybe you could pass it on.’
You can sign the petition here.
For more information on the 1888 strike, visit the People’s History Museum website or consult Louise Raw’s 2009 book Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History (Continuum).