Striking For Fair Rents

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In 1939 the largest rent strike ever seen in Britain took place in Birmingham.

It lasted over three months and involved over 10,000 municipal tenants. Its success was due to the actions of working-class women who felt their families were under attack by the Unionist council.

In the early twentieth century the role of women in working-class society was defined by dominant notions of home and family. The female role was fixed around the family and the household sphere, where women were responsible for the housekeeping budget and all matters relating to the home, while the male earned the money to support them.

As Donald Pigott observed in his autobiography of growing up on a 1930s Birmingham estate, ‘the sexes were complementary not equal. Fathers were the breadwinners, mothers the homemakers and rearers of children’.

KEYWORDS: Women, Strike, Housing, Birmingham

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