It was in early July 1888 that the young matchworkers of the Bryant & May match factory in Bow in the East End of London walked out on strike. Some of the workers had been speaking to journalist Annie Besant some days earlier about the terrible sanitary conditions in the factory. The use of a toxic form of phosphorous in the match making process resulted in the workers developing “phossy jaw” as the chemical contaminated the bones of the face.
When the factory owners sacked a number of employees for speaking to the journalist, hundreds of the workers walked out on strike. A strike fund register was set up, to distribute the donations that poured in from the public after Besant highlighted the plight of the workers in the press. You can see a digitised version of the stike fund register, which is deposited at the TUC Library, on our website here. You can also find more information about the history of the strike on our website here.