In 1906, Scottish suffrage campaigner Mary Macarthur (1880-1921) established the National Federation of Women Workers (NFWW) as a trade union for all women. Whereas the pre-existing Women’s Trade Union League campaigned to allow women into mixed-gender trade unions, the NFWW was a women-only trade union.

In 1907, fuelled by her passion for writing, Macarthur founded 'The Woman Worker', a monthly newspaper for the NFWW. In the first issue, Macarthur stated the paper’s aim “To teach the need for unity, to help improve working conditions, to present a monthly picture of the many activities of women Trade Unionists, to discuss all questions affecting the interests and welfare of women. Such, in brief, is our aim and purpose.”

In 1909, the British government passed the Trade Boards Act, which allowed boards to establish a minimum wage for particular trades, most notably chain-making, ready-made tailoring, paper-box making, and the machine-made lace trade.

After many successful years of representing women, the NFWW merged with the National Union of General Workers (NUGW) in 1920 to form a union for both male and female workers. Under the motto “You Cannot Afford To Stand Alone”, the NUGW continued to support workers in low paid jobs and ensured they received pay increases to match the rate of inflation. After several more mergers, it became the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trade Union (GMBATU), which was shortened to GMB in 1989.

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