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A Working-class Heroine Is Also Something To Be: The Untold Story of Cuban Railway Workers and the Struggle against Batista

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A Working-class Heroine Is Also Something To Be: The Untold Story of Cuban Railway Workers and the Struggle against Batista


When researching the biographical details of working class women, we are not only faced with that "enormous condescension of history" which EP Thompson criticized when writing about the history of working class movements, we also find that working class women are doubly "hidden from history" by the assumption that organised labour is male. However in Cuba in the 1950s, there were many important strikes which were initiated and sustained by women workers. When a group of office workers from the central Cuban town of Camagüey, the principal hub of the railway network covering the eastern part of the island, first heard of their employers' intention to impose wage cuts and redundancies, these women launched a wave of resistance by picketing the train drivers and maintenance engineers. The story of the railway women of Camagüey encourages us to look more closely into other working class struggles to seek the contributions made by women. The paper will examine the part played by working class women in the fight against the Batista dictatorship for, in addition to the women of Camagüey, we can find examples of militant activity from shop workers who started at least two town-wide general strikes and female office workers in the electrical supply industry who led demonstrations in a fight over trade union democracy. Sugar and dock workers' families organised vital solidarity action in the face of police violence, while women frequently took over picketing when their menfolk had to go into hiding to avoid being forced to return to work at gunpoint. The paper will argue that women workers, while only 10 percent of the Cuban workforce in the 1950s, played a part in the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship out of all proportion to their numbers.

Cushion, Stephen (2010) A Working-class Heroine Is Also Something To Be: The Untold Story of Cuban Railway Workers and the Struggle against Batista. MaComére, 12 (2).


Item Type: Article
Subjects: History
Divisions: Institute of Latin American Studies
Depositing User:
URI: http://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/id/eprint/5102
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