Tuesday, October 9, 2018


Rolls-Royce is equated with luxury cars, a reputation the company earned early. Founded just after the turn of the 20th century by engineer Henry Royce and car dealer Charles Rolls, the company decided almost immediately to focus on producing top-of-the-line cars that would set the standard for quality. Their hard work paid off. In 1907, the “Silver Ghost” was named ‘The Best Car in the World’ after its record breaking success.

When WWI arrived, the company turned their sights to producing aircraft engines, and created the Eagle, Falcon, and Hawk. During WWII, Rolls-Royce developed the Merlin and Griffon that powered the Royal Air Force’s fighter planes Spitfire, Hurricane, Mosquito, and others, making the engines two of the most successful designs in Rolls-Royce history.

However, not everything was well within the company.

As with other Allied countries whose men were at war, England recruited women to fill the void in employment. Many employers and male employees assumed the females would leave the workforce when the men returned. As a result, some unions discouraged or even prohibited the women from joining. However, the Amalgamated Engineering Union was in place at the Hillington, Scotland, and they had gals in their ranks.

Paid less than their male counterparts, the women complained to management who claimed the engines on which the women worked had been simplified for operation. However, Rolls-Royce paid the men at a higher rate. The conflict went to a Court of Inquiry who recommended a new grading system, that the women determined would leave 80% of them on the lowest rank.

The 16,000 women responded by walking out of the plant. Surprisingly, the majority of the men joined them in the strike. The plant ground to a halt, and management rushed to create a new agreement that specified every machine in the factory, the work done on it, and the rate for the job, regardless of who was operating the equipment.

The strike ended after seven days.

Have you ever worked for a union? What was your experience?

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, journalist, blogger, and history geek. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry, Linda has lived in historical places most of her life. She is a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII and a Trustee for her local public library. Active in her church Linda serves as treasurer, usher, and choir member. To find out more about Linda and her books visit www.LindaShentonMatchett.com. Sign up for her newsletter and receive the free short story prequel to Love's Harvest.


  1. Interesting history, Linda. I've never worked for an union, but have family members and friends who have. From their conversations there are pros and cons.

  2. No, I've never worked for a union but my uncle's did. Thanks for an interesting post.