Amrit Wilson talks about her experiences of meeting the Grunwick women’s strikers and interviewing strike leader, Jayaben Desai.
Finding a VoiceAmrit Wilson’s book Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain (London: Virago, 1978) was the first book to look at the experience of Asian women in the UK. It discussed attitudes towards love and marriage in Asian communities, as well as institutionalised racism in British society.
Do you think going on strike is a useful campaigning tool?
Picket photograph © Getty Images
Grunwick Strikers photograph © Getty Images
I did stay in touch with quite a few. There were some of the women who were in my first chapter I did keep in touch with and for a few years, but not perhaps as long as I would have liked to. The chapter on which I did on work where there was the Grunwick strike and so on, there I was in touch with Jayaben Desai till, well almost till she died really, so it was a long time. I mean she changed enormously in that period.
The Grunwick strike, at that time I was sort of still planning my book and I was – I was quite keen to anyway be writing about it, because I did go to the protests and the pickets, which I remember that summer, you know, we used to get up really really early and go down there because it was early in a morning. And quite early on I got to know Jayaben, who was the strike leader and she said, ‘Well, you know, why should we interview me here, standing here, let’s come to my house,’ And she offered me tea, her husband was very supportive of her so he went off and made some tea and she talked to me then and then right through the strike she – I did a series of interviews with her where she told me about what she was facing, the difficulties of mobilising in the community, and what she was facing from the owner George Ward and the way he used the patriarchy of the community. But also the scale of racism and what she said was that most journalists don’t write about race and I do want you to write about it, and so I did. George Ward tried to take us to – well he did take Virago to court – about, over my book and in the second edition we had to take out some bits but we didn’t weaken it and he let that pass. But I’m told that now he’s enormously rich, you know, he’s a multimillionaire and he is taking everybody to court, even for a mention of racism. So obviously he’s become much bolder. But anyway she was always willing to talk, to give me her views, to talk about, you know, as I said, the problems of mobilising. And a million other things, you know, she was just a friend. I think she was very disappointed at the end of the strike, you know, obviously. But she tried not to show it, you know, she, she tried to take it philosophically.
- Amrit Wilson discusses the Grunwick strike
- 23 - 24 May 2011
- Sound recording
- Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
- © British Library
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- British Library
- Article by:
- Sisterhood and After Research Team
- Equality and work
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