Belfast Telegraph

Plaque honour for Belfast peace activist Saidie Patterson

By Claire O'Boyle

Trade unionist and peace activist Saidie Patterson will have a Blue Plaque unveiled in her honour on International Women's Day.

The north Belfast native, who received five international peace awards, was committed to "fairness and equality in the workplace".

Ms Patterson was born in 1906 and lived her life in Woodvale, where she campaigned throughout her life for women and workers. Her passion for fairness stemmed from her own personal tragedy when her mother, a linen industry outworker, died during childbirth. She had been unable to afford a doctor's fee of 3s.6d.

Aged 14, Saidie started work at Ewart's Mill on the Crumlin Road and from the start she fought to alleviate the struggles of her peers.

In 1940, she called for the full unionisation of Ewart's workforce - and called a strike when the demand was rejected.

Almost 2,000 workers joined the strike, and female staff marched through the streets of Belfast in their Sunday best.

The strike lasted a remarkable seven weeks, and by the end of the year, wages had increased and sickness and holiday pay were introduced.

Saidie's leadership skills were rewarded with a full-time position in the textile branch of the Transport and General Workers' Union in Belfast, with a special responsibility for women workers.

She was in the post for 20 years. Outside the workplace, Saidie's interest in social welfare went much further and as an active member of the Girls Club Union for more than 50 years she brought girls from the Falls and Shankill Roads together.

She went on to play an important role in the work of the Peace People, and at the age of 69 was presented with the World Methodist Peace Award. She died in 1985.

Vice-Chairman of the Ulster History Circle, Dr Myrtle Hill said: "The Ulster History Circle is delighted to honour this local woman who has played such a prominent role in our history.

The plaque will be unveiled by Baroness May Blood this Thursday at 11.30am at Shankill Road Methodist Church, Belfast.

Belfast Telegraph

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