Northern Ireland news

Blue plaque unveiled to Belfast peace activist Saidie Patterson on International Woman's Day

Baroness May Blood yesterday unveiled the blue plaque in honour of peace activist Saidie Patterson at Shankill Methodist Church in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

A PEACE activist committed to "fairness and equality" was honoured in Belfast yesterday on International Women's Day.

A blue plaque to Saidie Patterson, who received five international peace awards, was unveiled at Shankill Road Methodist Church, close to the Woodvale area where she lived throughout her life.

Religious leaders and politicians were among those who attended the event with Baroness May Blood unveiling the plaque.

The Ulster History Circle said Ms Patterson, also a dedicated trade unionist, was an "important role model to be celebrated on International Women's Day".

Born in 1906, Ms Patterson campaigned throughout her life for women and workers.

Her passion for fairness stemmed from personal tragedy when her mother, a linen industry outworker, died during childbirth.

Aged 14, she started work at Ewart's Mill on Crumlin Road and fought to alleviate the struggles of her peers.

In 1940, she called for the full unionisation of Ewart's workforce and called a strike when the demand was rejected. Almost 2,000 workers joined the strike and female staff marched through the streets of Belfast in their Sunday best.

The strike lasted for seven weeks and when it ended, wages were increased and sickness and holiday pay introduced.

Her leadership skills were acknowledged when she was appointed the first full-time official of the textile branch of the Transport and General Worker's Union in Belfast, with special responsibility for women workers - a role she continued for 20 years.

An active member of the Girls Club Union for more than five decades, she also played an important role in the work of the Peace People, organising a march of 50,000 women between the Falls and the Shankill.

She received five international peace awards, donating the money received to charities. She died in I985.

Dr Myrtle Hill from the Ulster History Circle said they were "delighted to honour this local woman who has played such a prominent role in our history".

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