On the Telephone – The Workers’ Institute, Black Country Living Museum
Black Country Living Museum is an open air museum where volunteers help to interpret life in the Black Country during the 19th and 20th century. Visitors are immersed in this world as they walk around original village streets, canalside and industrial areas. The Workers’ Institute, originally from Cradley Heath, stands as a testament to the victory of the women chain makers’ strike of 1910. The strike ended in a landmark victory giving women the right to a fair wage for the first time. Mary Macarthur was the trade unionist who helped the women and gained the support of other unions and the general public in this battle against starvation wages. The institute was built with the remains of the money raised during the strike and visitors find it in the guise of the 1930s with union offices downstairs and a memorial exhibition to Mary Macarthur upstairs. Screens within desktops relate stories of 1910 and if visitors lift original phones to their ears they can hear echoes of conversations from the past.