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Usher Nellie

Nellie Usher

 

Born in 1882, Nellie was the eldest of four children and nine years old when her father died. Her widowed mother kept the family going by “cooking or cleaning, or anything she could get”.

 

Nellie own husband was killed in the First World War, so, to keep her own family, she went to work on the buses as a conductress, which was an introduction to trade unionism. During her three years on the buses she took part in a wage-claim strike, which was “practically solid and very successful", possibly the famous equal pay strike of 1918.

After the war, finding work in the upholstery trade, she became a militant trade union activist in the Amalgamated Union of Upholsterers. Her teacher of the trade, a forewoman at the leading firm, Hamptons, offered her star pupil a job, and she worked there for nine years. During the General Strike of 1926 she helped to mobilise the girls she worked with. 

 

She was then a member of the Labour Party, albeit always at loggerheads with the local leaders. One day she happened to go into Battersea Park and heard Saklatvala, the Communist MP, speak. “I thought: This is it!—this is what I believe in."

Hampton’s was to be her longest job, for as she became more and more active as a trade unionist, Nellie was frequently victimised. She was eventually barred from working with them by all the London employers in the trade.

 

Some Communist Party leaflets issued at the factory gate and  some  classes confirmed  her  views,  and  she joined the Communist Party in 1928.

 

She was secretary of the Women's Shop Stewards' movement in the 1930s and played a leading role in the strike for a women's wage increase in West End upholstery shops—which resulted in nine months of victimisation by the employers.

Later, after her union was merged within the National Union of Furniture Trades Operatives (in much later years, FTAT and then GMB), she was elected to many positions of responsibility in NUFTO and even represented the union on the Joint Furniture Trade Board.

 

Nellie Usher joined the Communist Party in 1928 and was an activist for the Party until great old age. An active member of the Westminster Communist Party, she handled literature on Friday evenings and did her share of the card exchange and of work for the Daily Worker Bazaar.  

 
One of her proudest possessions was a gold watch presented to her in 1961 by her union branch for a lifetime of effort.


Source: World News January 20th 1962; Daily Worker 4 January 1962