As I explained in my previous posting, yesterday I was visiting London’s East End to view a participating location in this week’s Get Online Week events. While I was in the area, I noticed a rather fine statue of the Liberal statesman William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) who managed to serve four terms as Chancellor of the Exchequer and four terms as Prime Minister. I was perplexed by the fact that the statue had red hands and took this photograph:
Note the red hands
Once I was home, i searched the Net for further information on the statue and the red hands. I am indebted to Angela Stapleford for this explanation:
“In 1882 a statue to the prime minister, William Gladstone was unveiled at Bow Road. The statue was raised by Theodore Bryant, an industrialist and prominent Liberal. Bryant was Director of the Bryant and May Factory at nearby Fairfield Road whose employees went on strike for three weeks during the “Match Girl” strike of 1888.
Although many of the East End’s Irish population were fond of Gladstone because of his Irish policies and attended the unveiling in support, employees of Bryant and May were angered at the statue’s unveiling.
They claimed that the statue had been paid for by deductions from their wages. The women workers, some as young as 13 were low paid and worked long hours. Some of the workers, “went to the unveiling with stones and bricks in their pockets… later on they surrounded the statue – ‘we paid for it’, they cried savagely – shouting and yelling, and a gruesome story is told that some cut their arms and let their blood trickle on the marble, paid for, in truth, by their blood.”
This account was told to Annie Besant at the time of the Match Girl strike six years later. The women who took part in the protest in 1882 were possibly older sisters, mothers or friends of the young women who went on strike later. The story formed part of their collective memory.
At an unknown date since the hands of the Gladstone statue have been painted red.”