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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 March, 2004, 09:16 GMT
'Tragedy made me support miners'
Anne Suddick was a secretary working for the NUM when the strike started but it was a family tragedy rather than her job that led her to become the co-ordinator of the Northumberland and Durham miners support group.

Anne Suddick: "The hardship of that year will stay with me for life"
What brought the strike home to me was my sister dying just after childbirth.

She was married to a miner and he was left with a newborn and a 10-year-old son. Because there wasn't another adult in the house, they were living on child benefit and milk tokens.

We were a unified family and we all helped to bring up my nephew and niece.

But it made me realise how desperate all the miners were going to be and I thought 'we've got to do something' so I became involved in the miners' support groups that were springing up.

We ran a workshop to discuss fundraising, food parcels and the difficult issue of what benefits were available for the families of striking miners.

Food parcels contained the basics: tea, bread, beans - food that wasn't exciting but that covered the necessities. They were particularly important to single miners who were not entitled to any help at all from the state.

I wasn't a politically active person at the time but the strike changed me, it really did
Anne Suddick
The strike certainly had an impact on whole families. Men who had been used to going down the pit every day, earning a steady wage, were suddenly stuck at home or on the picket line.

There was no income to pay bills and things got very hard coming up to winter. The threat of having the electricity and gas cut off was very real for many families and we wrote letters to the energy suppliers saying 'please give them a bit longer to pay'.

At Christmas we had a toy and turkey appeal so that every child of a striking miner would get at least one toy and every family would have a Christmas dinner.

It was said that we would never raise enough money, but with the help of sympathetic supporters we did it - despite the turkey lorry getting confiscated at Customs. There was even a convoy of toys from the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

Greenham Common

I wasn't a politically active person at the time but the strike changed me as the year went on, it really did.

Women cooking for a soup kitchen
Women made sure striking families had food, but their effort stretched far beyond the kitchen
For the first time I realised I had seen everything through the eyes of the media but now I wanted to find out things for myself.

I went down to Greenham Common because the women there had sent us donations so I thought if they've shown an interest in us, we should show an interest in them.

Not even 100 books - and I'm an avid reader - could have changed me the way that year did.

We put on a benefit concert at the Royal Albert Hall - the only concert I had done before then was at Consett village hall. It was mindboggling.

Barriers

And the strike changed a lot of women. Even if it was just that they didn't read the Sun or didn't believe everything they saw on the TV news because their husband had come back off the picket line and told them what had really happened.

Anne Suddick
"We gained a lot of knowledge that year"
Women overcame barriers that were put before them, because they had to - the problems were real and had to be sorted on a daily basis.

After the strike, there was a groundswell of women who became politically active or who decided to go into higher education; a lot of women started to write poetry.

However the big change was in attitude: there was an instinctive knowledge that was gained that year. We used to believe everything we were told by the media and the state but after all that we couldn't.

I am quite certain that there is not one woman who remains unaffected by that time of great hardship. It will remain with me for life.

Women's involvement in the miners' strike is one of the topics of discussion at a conference at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle in July 2004


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