September 2014 – Miners And Their Wives Do Not Forget 1929 general election leaflet
This illustrated election leaflet titled ‘Miners And Their Wives Do Not Forget’ was created in 1929. The illustration on the leaflet shows a hostile miner, his distressed wife and a ‘capitalist’ who is wearing a top hat which reads ‘Tory Government’ and has a bag of ‘profit’ in his hands. The features of the capitalist are decidedly monstrous and his satanic otherness is highlighted by his cloven feet. The difference between the miner and his employer is further emphasised by the industrial colliery scene behind the former and the grand house behind the latter.
The leaflet is a criticism of both Liberal and Conservative governments’ treatment of the miners in the 1920s and was distributed by Albert Victor Alexander, the Labour candidate for Sheffield Hillsborough. Although better known for steel manufacturing, coal mining was also a big part of industry in Sheffield. The tensions of the 1920s would be fresh in the minds of the miners who worked there.
During the World War I the coal industry was effectively nationalised. Whilst under government control, miners enjoyed the benefits of improved working hours, wages and better health and safety regulations. Once the war was over, miners wished for the industry to remain under government control. In 1919, the government set up the Sankey Commission to investigate the matter, and Sankey concluded that nationalisation should continue. This election leaflet criticises the Liberal Government for not putting into place Sankey’s findings, as David Lloyd-George handed control back to the mine owners in 1921.
A Conservative government won power in 1922 at a time when Britain was struggling to cope with economic depression. In 1925, the government reintroduced the Gold Standard, which tied the value of the pound to the amount of gold in the Bank of England. As a result Britain’s exports fell which hugely affected the staple industries, especially that of coal.
To try and combat these problems, a lot of employers cut wages, extended working hours or even dismissed workers altogether. Miners were expected to accept this or find themselves ‘locked out’ of employment. In 1926, the Samuel Commission recommended that there should be small wage cuts but no lengthened working hours. Both miners and employers refused to accept this suggestion and the tension culminated in the General Strike of 1926.
Aside from these factors, 1929 was a significant election for another reason. After the passing of the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, 1929 was the first general election in which all women over the age of 21 could vote. Consequently, women were pushed to the front of campaigning. However, as the leaflet demonstrations, society’s views of women had not changed. Like many election posters at this time, women were still seen in terms of their status as mothers and wives. It is the man who is pictured speaking truth to power.
This leaflet turned up whilst researching for our next changing exhibition Election!. Finding it has shed new light on an obscure painting in the collection of the People’s History Museum. The illustration is taken from a painting by Samuel Harry Hancock named (though erroneously we think) ‘Landlords and Tenants’ which was painted in the 1920s. Not much is known about Samuel Harry Hancock, apart from that he was a GPO postman in London.
The leaflet illustration is signed by ‘Samz’ presumably Hancock’s pseudonym, and it appears that he drew several other illustrations used in election posters in the 1920s. The ‘Miners And Their Wives’ leaflet has unwittingly allowed us to discover more about the mysterious ‘painting postman’.
Sent out approximately every two months.