I’ve just typed THE END to my latest novel, The Chainmaker’s Wife – a sequel to The Chainmakers’ Daughter. There’s still a lot of work to be done applying my latest research findings, editing, beta reading, etc, but I hope to be able to publish it before Christmas.
I was asked to write this sequel by a reader who wanted to know what happened to Jack and Rosie after the landmark strike for a minimum wage by women chainmakers in 1910. What happened to them, he wanted to know from 1910 to the end of the First World War.
So I obliged. Had I known the difficulty of the research, I might have baulked at the task, but fortunately, ignorance is bliss, and I jumped in with both feet. Despite the research constantly contradicting itself and having to dig deeper and deeper, it’s been the fastest book I’ve ever written. I began on June 21st and it’ s now October 7th – a wordcount that averages 1078 words a day. Doesn’t sound like much but there were three or four hours of research for every hour of writing.
Some call it dedication – but it’s actually laziness; the state of my house shows I’ve done no housework worth a mention for three months. I swear, this morning, I emptied an entire dog out of my vacuum cleaner.
Anyway, this is the FACT FROM FICTION piece added this morning that follows the end of my story. Enjoy:
Hawley Heath, although situated near Cradley Heath in the heart of the Black Country, is entirely fictional as are its inhabitants. The world centre for chainmaking, the towns surrounding Cradley Heath produced chain that was exported across the globe, as well as the anchor chains and anchors for HMS Titanic and other large ships.
Apart from the politicians, naval admirals, and suffragette activists mentioned, the only real people in my story are Millicent Fawcett and Mary Macarthur of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.
Mary Macarthur has been a driving force throughout Jack and Rosie’s tale, and though her letters to Rosie are fictional, I hope I have brought across her passion, energy, and determination to bring equality to women. She is probably the woman most responsible for the benefits women enjoy today.
Although Emmeline Pankhurst is probably the name most commonly associated with winning women the vote, my research has found that the suffragettes militant activities possibly held back the cause of suffrage as the government couldn’t be seen to give in to terrorism – and what would we call setting chemical devices in post boxes, and bombing and arson attacks on property, today, other than extremist terrorism? Innocent people did get hurt, which turned public opinion against suffrage.
Mary’s calm and determined pecking away at government, although slower, did show that women could hold a logical, reasoned, determined argument and were worthy of their place in politics.
Mary had an extraordinary though tragic life. She had six children, only three of whom survived, lost her husband, Will, to the influenza pandemic in 1919 and died herself of cancer on New Year’s Day 1921 aged only forty. She saw the first positive rumblings towards universal suffrage in 1919, and the Representation of the People Act 1928 did finally put justice and equality before power politics and gave everyone over the age of twenty-one the right to vote, regardless of sex or status. Although Mary had fought for this for most of her adult life, it wasn’t until 1929 that men and women first cast their votes on an equal footing.
That I have chosen to feature Mary Macarthur, rather than Millicent Fawcett, in my tale is solely because Mary is an established character in Book One, The Chainmakers’ Daughter, because of her support of the women chainmakers’ strike for 2½d an hour in 1910, and in no way reflects an opinion of Millicent’s equally huge contribution to women’s suffrage and equality.
As well as successfully lobbying for a national minimum wage in 1910, Mary was a powerful advocate of equal pay between the sexes for equal work done. While some concessions were made to women doing men’s work during WW1, equal pay for women took until 1970 to become law in Britain. Truly, women have had to fight every step of the way for what we take for granted today.
As I write this, October 2020, we are in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic, so there are terrifying parallels to be drawn between our immediate future and the 1918-19 influenza pandemic. The pandemic began in the USA in 1918 and is said to have been brought to Europe by US troops entering the war. Once there, it spread across the continent among troops and civilians, and at armistice, the soldiers brought it home to Britain with devastating results. There were no vaccines, no treatments, it was extremely contagious, and it’s said you could be healthy in the morning and dead by teatime, so fast and deadly was the virus.
228,000 people died in Britain in the two years the pandemic lasted. The USA lost 650,000 souls, some 500 million people were thought to be infected worldwide, and the only place not to have influenza cases was a small island in the middle of the Amazon River. Total global deaths aren’t known, but figures of between 20 million and 50 million have been quoted. When you consider that the global population stood at around 1.7 billion in 1920, half a billion infected is a huge percentage.
Although the characters who play out my tale are fictitious, the historical events portrayed aren’t. The militant suffragettes did commit arson as well as chaining themselves to railings and breaking windows. The Liverpool dock strike did happen, along with many other strikes against the profiteering of rich employers at the expense of their workers, who endured atrocious living conditions and wages – the government did station warships in the Mersey, and troops did shoot protesters in South Wales.
The actions during the Battle of Jutland are also based on real events, and I am grateful to Gerry Costello for sharing his immense knowledge of the ships and naval actions of that time. (Any errors are my own) The lessons learned during the Battle of Jutland brought about changes that would see Britain’s naval supremacy continue through WW2. Attacks on merchant shipping by German U-boats really did bring Britain almost to starvation point in April 1917 as the British blockade on Germany did to the German people. The early 1900s, through which my grandparents lived, was truly a tumultuous and harrowing time, and it’s the courage and determination of ordinary people like them that brought about much of the structure of our modern society. It has been a sobering learning experience for me that I have enjoyed immensely.
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In the meantime, why not read Book One, The Chainmakers’ Daughter, at http://mybook.to/ChainmakersDaughter