Cooperative Women’s Guild Speech

In 1883 our foremothers came together with a common purpose, to fight for equality within our movement, to promote women and for education for women and children. 


They were troublemakers and rabble rousers not cake bakers and jam makers.


Before our party was on its feet, these were the people who brought women into politics, provided training and increased women’s confidence. And this is still something they continue to do.


They say that if you want something done then you give it to a busy woman, and based on their history the Women’s Guild have been very busy women. Amongst the campaigns they were heavily involved in were those for fair wages, maternity rights and women’s suffrage, where some canny women realised that until they could vote, women’s power lay in their shopping basket. In this way they were harking back to the Rochdale Pioneers.


In my home town of Nottingham, the local Guild set up one of the first Family planning clinics in the country, with the aim of enabling working women to control their own fertility. This was part of a wider campaign by the national guild for better public health and access to healthcare. 


Unlike what certain newspapers think, White poppies were not invented by the stop the war coalition, instead they are almost as old as red poppies and were created by the Women’s Guild. To this day many guildswomen wear red poppies to remember the fallen and white poppies as a pledge to work towards future peace.


Even now, with their future in question, guildswomen are continuing to fight, fight against the sexualisation of children, against the extra cost of single rooms in hotels and to save our NHS. Guildswomen will staff the picket lines to provide cover for nurses and ambulance staff who feel unable to.


In all climates the Guild has kept the flame of cooperativism alive, we shouldn’t allow them to go quiet into that good night.


We ask the party to provide support to the guild, to offer both practical help and solidarity and to use its considerable skills and experience to help the guild continue into the future.