Dr Louise Raw is a writer, broadcaster, public speaker and historian.
Her book, Striking a Light, now in its sixth reprint, told the story of the groundbreaking 1888 strike by women match makers in Bow, East London, recognising it as the beginning of the modern labour movement and, by extension, the Labour Party. On International Women’s Day 2017, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn acknowledged her work as ‘… a history lesson that should be taught in our schools.’
Louise runs an annual ‘Matchwomen’s Festival’ in London on the anniversary of the strike; speakers have included Tony Benn, Diane Abbott MP and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.
Louise appears twice monthly on BBC Radio London presenting histories of lesser-known London Lives. She featured in and was historical adviser for BBC Two’s The Victorian Slum. She has also appeared in Who Do You Think You Are? and Channel 4’s The Worst Jobs in History.
She has written on contemporary politics for the Independent, Big Issue, Politics UK, the New European and the Morning Star and reviewed books for Prospect Magazine.
She lectures annually at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and gives talks for schools, conferences, political and women’s groups and museums, on women’s and labour history as well as contemporary politics. She has chaired conferences for Women’s Aid and the Freedom Programme.
BBC Radio London
In July 1888, fourteen hundred women and girls employed by the matchmakers Bryant and May walked out of their East End factory and into the history books.
Louise Raw gives us a challenging new interpretation of events proving that the women themselves, not celebrity socialists like Annie Besant, began it. She provides unequivocal evidence to show that the matchwomen greatly influenced the Dock Strike of 1889, which until now was thought to be the key event of new unionism, and repositions them as the mothers of the modern labour movement.
Returning to the stories of the women themselves, and by-interviewing-their relatives today, Raw is able to construct a new history which challenges existing accounts of the strike itself and radically alters the accepted history of the labour movement in Britain.
‘… a history lesson that should be taught in our schools’
— Jeremy Corbyn