Ada Nield Chew sent a series of letters to the Crewe Chronicle, starting on the 5th May 1894. The letters are quite remarkable (considering she left school when she was just 11) and very brave (she eventually lost her job as a result of these letters). In the letters (which were originally sent anonymously under the pseudonym of “A Crewe Factory girl”) she outlines the appalling conditions in a Crewe clothing factory and points out the discrimination against the women workers there.
The letters were originally published in the Crewe Chronicle, and later included in a biography Ada Nield Chew: The Life and Writings of a Working Woman (now sadly out of print) which was written by her daughter Doris Chew. Arguably Ada did more to get equal rights for women than the Pankhursts (who Ada felt represented middle class women and were patronising).
Nantwich Museum have reproduced her letters here. We commend them to anyone studying English, as they are polite and well reasoned. For anyone studying history, they provide a fascinating outlook into the life, as an employee, in one of the many clothing factories in this area. If you’ve not read them before, we suggest that you start at the beginning, and follow Ada as her story unfolds.
Letter One – Ada introduces herself and starts her campaign for a living wage for factory girls at Crewe.
Letter Two – Ada talks about the wages that factory girls receive in Crewe.
Letter Three – Ada talks about the girls who work in her factory.
Letter Four – Ada describes how unfairly work is allocated in her factory.
Letter Five – Ada replies to a letter writer who implies all is ok in her factory.
Letter Six – Ada explains what happens when the orders are low (and there’s not enough work to go round) in her factory.
Letter Seven – Ada outlines eight key points why her employment is unfair.
Letter Eight – Ada suspects that other letters to the Chronicle are from “the favourites”.
Letter Nine – The managers at Ada’s factory aren’t happy about her letters! Ada reports what has happened.
Letter Ten – The managers have a go at Ada!
Letter Eleven – Staff lose their jobs.
Letter Twelve – Ada, who is no longer the anonymous Crewe Factory girl, celebrates her victories.