• The famous matchgirls’ strike at the Bryant and May matchworks in the East End has been commemorated with an English Heritage Blue Plaque. The event, widely recognised as a spur to the New Unionism movement, saw about 1,400 of the predominantly young female workforce walk out in protest at the dismissal of a number of their co-workers in early July, 1888. While some of the details remain unclear, it is thought that the women were probably sacked for giving information to reporters, refusing to sign a statement refuting poor working conditions, or on trumped-up charges of trouble making. The women – whose poor working conditions, including low pay, the imposition of fines and deductions by the company and the dangers of ‘phossy jaw’, were catalogued by journalist Annie Besant – won a famous victory after a three week strike in which almost all their demands were met. Bryant and May also recognised the Union of Women Match Makers which, by the end of 1888, had become the Matchmakers’ Union and admitted both men and women. For more on English Heritage Blue Plaques, see www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/blue-plaques/.
• Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation is the subject of a new exhibition opening at Windsor Castle today. Platinum Jubilee: The Queen’s Coronation, which focuses on the coronation which took place at Westminster Abbey on 2nd June, 1953, features portraiture, photographs and dress and jewellery worn by the Queen including the Sir Norman Hartnell-designed Coronation Dress, Robe of Estate and the Coronation Necklace and Earrings which were originally made for Queen Victoria in 1858. Also on display are brooches representing the emblems of some Commonwealth countries including a Canadian Maple-leaf Brooch worn by then Princess Elizabeth on her first visit to Canada in 1951, a Flame-Lily Brooch, the emblem of Zimbabwe, which was pinned to the Queen’s mourning clothes when she returned from Kenya after the death of her father in 1952, and the New Zealand Silver Fern Brooch, the Australian Wattle Brooch, and the Sri Lanka Brooch. There’s also a 2.5-metre-tall portrait of the Queen by Sir Herbert James Gunn which was commissioned to commemorate the coronation and a three-quarter length photographic portrait of the Queen taken by Cecil Beaton. Included in general admission. Runs until 26th September. Running in conjunction id a digital event – Royal Jewels: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration – which will be held at 7pm on 28th July in which Caroline de Guitaut, deputy surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art and curator of the Platinum Jubilee display, with join Carol Woolton, former jewellery editor of Vogue in discussing items of The Queen’s jewellery on display at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace this summer. Tickets can be booked at www.rct.uk.
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