Rose Steele is a graduate researcher at UCL, completing an MRes in Anthropology. Her current research concerns the relationship between collective memories of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strikes and contemporary political organisation in trade unions in the North East of England, with plans to pay particular interest to gendered memory and organisation. Previously, she has conducted research into the relationship between deindustrialisation, community identity and working-class heritage in Glasgow, her home town. She is extremely interested in collaborative and situated methodologies, and their potential advantages for communities in “left-behind” places.


The Union Makes Us Strong: Gendered Collective Memory of the 1984-5 Miners’ Strikes and Contemporary Trade Union Organisation in the North East of England (working title).

This project will consider the relationship between collective memory and contemporary political organisation in trade unions in the North East of England. Memories of industrial action, in particular striking and The Miners’ Strikes of 1984-5, remain a key cornerstone in contemporary political narratives in the region and among the British Left (Nettlingham, 2017). Through the employment of a collaborative and situated methodology, I hope to investigate the relationships between collective memories of striking and women’s support groups, and contemporary attitudes to industrial action and gendered political organisation. The contributions of women in the strikes have been celebrated in many books released by community publishers and independent filmmakers but are still relatively underrepresented in formal and academic publications. While these women are garnering more attention in recent years (Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, 2023), there are still discrepancies in the numbers of works discussing their role versus that of men. Memory may be understood as embodied and spatially encoded (Le Goff, 1992; Watson, 1994). Space is gendered (West and Zimmerman, 1987), and “public” political spaces, such as trade union meetings and working men’s clubs can be viewed as masculine (Ortner, 1972). Western conceptions of “the home” and domestic space (where much of women’s organising in the strikes took place) broadly associate domesticity with femininity (Rezeanu, 2015). Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that a sense of political place associated with memories of industrial action may mean that collective memories, particularly those foundational to political narratives and organisation, will be largely masculine. To verify this, the relationship between collective memory and contemporary gendered political organisation must be analysed. I am currently in the research design phase of this project, and have plans to conduct participant observation and situated interviews between April and July of this year.