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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lavery

Hull's Headscarf Revolutionaries 'back at Westminster' for International Women's Day

TODAY in the Commons, North Hull Labour MP Diana Johnson quoted The Headscarf Revolutionaries as inspirational women and has called for them to be given the Freedom of the City of Hull. She was joined in that call on International Women's Day by the city's two other MPs Karl Turner and Emma Hardy. Labour MP Jess Phillips has also praised the 'headscarf revolutionaries' ' leader Mrs Lillian Bilocca in her own best-selling book Everywoman. Since the publication of The Headscarf Revolutionaries (Barbican Press 2015) the story of the four women who took on the Establishment and won is now becoming widespread, global even. It tells the story of how Mrs Lillian Bilocca led a fishwives' uprising in the Dark Winter of 1968 after three Hull trawlers the St Romanus, the Kingston Peridot and the Ross Cleveland left the port of Hull never to return with the loss of 58 souls.

Mrs Bilocca, alongside Mrs Mary Denness, Mrs Yvonne Blenkinsop and Mrs Chrissie Smallbone (later Jensen) took their fight to Westminster in 1968 and succeeded with the most powerful British civil action of the 20th century to make safer the most dangerous industry on Earth. One man survived the triple trawler disaster. The mate of the Ross Cleveland – Harry Eddom – has his miracle survival chronicled in great detail in the Barbican Press book, the title of which became shorthand for the fighting women of the Hessle Road fishing community. The Headscarf Revolutionaries' story has inspired a TV documentary by Testimony Films on BBC 4, two Radio 4 documentaries, two stage plays, music by radical songwriters Reg Meuross and Joe Solo as well as poetry by the acclaimed writer Helen Mort. The story of the women, who put themselves at risk fighting for safety at sea at a time when health and safety at work was rarely discussed let alone enacted, is gaining momentum every day. In 2015, the then Lord Mayor of Hull Councillor Mary Glew, unveiled plaques to the four women, at that time two of the campaigners were still alive and it was the first time such plaques were given by the council to those still living. There is also a campaign run by Mr Ian Cuthbert, of Cottingham, to have the women's work further commemorated by getting the last surviving "Headscarf Revolutionary" Mrs Yvonne Blenkinsop given an award in the Queen's Honours' List. Little wonder their story is spreading. You can check out why elsewhere on this website.

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