Belfast Telegraph

City Hall's window into struggles of Belfast women who went through the mill

By Linda Stewart

A magnificent stained glass window featuring Belfast's mill workers has been unveiled at Belfast City Hall ahead of International Women's Day.

The window signifies the struggles that women have faced throughout history and marks the contribution that those in Belfast have made to culture, industry and society.

At the unveiling last night councillor Deidre Hargey, chair of the women's steering group, said: "We all know that the working conditions in the mills were horrendous, wages were low, hours were long, health poor and life expectancy low.

"Women outnumbered male workers but were paid much less, and employers often issued the women with fines for singing or laughing.

"In response to their poor treatment, the women formed the textile workers section of the Irish Transport Workers Union and united to organise the linen strike of 1911. These women fought to improve conditions not just for themselves but for the generations who came after them."

"We hope that this window will inspire and unite women to continue to work for equality. I am proud to say that Belfast City Council's women's steering group is playing a key role in that with the implementation of the council's gender action plan.

"This seeks to address the issue and barriers that women continue to face in their daily lives."

The stained glass window will become one of the highlights of a new tour of city artefacts which concentrates on women in Belfast.

All political parties supported the commission of the window, which is on the ground floor of City Hall.

The women's steering group worked with distinguished local historian Margaret Ward and groups from across the city to develop the window.

Lord Mayor Arder Carson and the chair and deputy chair of the women's steering group, Ms Hargey and councillor Aileen Graham, unveiled the artwork. The Lord Mayor said: "The unveiling of this window is very timely and it is an inspiration not just to women for International Women's Day, but to everyone fighting inequality."

Ms Graham said the excellent design presented by Alpha Stained Glass had really impressed the selection team.

"We felt it was the one that not only reflected the significant contribution that women have made to our city in the past, but also depicts ongoing challenges," she said.

"As a result of our work we have also been able to create a new and free tour of City Hall which will concentrate on how women have contributed to the city's development."

The first of the tours will mark International Women's Day.

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