Born on June 9th 1912, Gertie Roche began work in the clothing industry in the 1920s, aged 16 she was employed at Montague Burton’s huge factory in Leeds. After a big strike in 1936, she joined the Communist Party. After an early unhappy marriage, she married Jim Roche, a fellow clothing worker who became a leading full-time worker in the Yorkshire District Communist Party after the war.
Gertie was active in the National Assembly of Women from 1951, which was especially associated for resistance to the Cold War and US aggression. This became a personal concern when he son by a previous marriage, David, was called up during the Korean War. Gertie’s activism sharpened further and she became the Yorkshire District Women’s Organiser, setting up groups in mining and textile towns.
Jim Roche resigned from the Communist Party after Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin but Gertie stayed on until November of that year, when she was expelled. Both were active supporters of New Reasoner and close to EP Thompson and his wife, Dorothy. In later years, Gertie became a shop steward at Colliers’ clothing factory; she was associated with the mass walkout of Leeds’ women textile workers of 1970. Later still, she was a key figure in the feminist movement. Jim Roche died in 1992 and Gertie passed away on June 3rd 1997, aged 84.
Source: Guardian June 9th 1997