chapter  3
18 Pages

Women in Social Protest

WithMalcolm I. Thomis, Jennifer Grimmett

Food rioting was the main form of social protest with which women were identified in the first half of the nineteenth century. It was also an important feature of the background against which Luddism, or machine breaking, took place in 1811-12 in its three principal centres, Nottingham, Leeds and Manchester, all of which had major food riots apparently led by women. Machine breaking, particularly the destruction of threshing machines, was the biggest category of incident associated with the Swing riots of 1830-1, but women appear to have played no great part in either the machine breaking or the labourers' riots as a whole. The relationship of the Swing riots to local price movements is doubtless of importance in explaining the relative passivity of women in this movement, but it is possible to offer further suggestions why Swing, to the extent that it was both the work of itinerant groups and in part a night-time operation, direct participation from women.