We are really proud that Tower Hamlets & the City Membership and Equality Officer, Kiri Tunks, has won the Annie Higdon award.
This award is given each year to a member of the NEU recognition of work to challenge sexism and engage women in the union.
The citation read:
“Kiri is awarded the Annie Higdon award in acknowledgement of a lifetime of activity to engage women in the NEU. Supporting sisters to stand up, speak up and take up space. She has consistently and persistently pushed for change to make the NEU more accessible, welcoming and relevant to women members and activists.”
The Strike is remembered on the first weekend in September every year with a rally in Burston, Norfolk. This year the rally will take place on Sunday 4th September.
More details here
Annie came from a working-class family in Cheshire. She became a school teacher before she married, and later became headmistress at Wood Dalling, a village school in Norfolk. Her husband held a junior position though most of the documents, books and blogs about the pair do not acknowledge this.
Annie and her husband challenged authorities and pushed for improvements to the school building and learning environment. School governors resented the couple repeatedly raising concerns over the children’s welfare and organised a transfer to another Norfolk school; Burston. Annie’s final entry into the school log was expunged from the records because they it was considered to be political and inflammatory.
Popular with the community and the children of her new school, Annie lobbied the education authority for school improvements, including tackling damp cold classrooms and other unhygienic conditions. She and her husband clashed with the parish rector and school board. In 1914 the Higdons were dismissed (from their teaching posts) after accusations that Annie had lit a fire without permission and failed to curtsy to the rector’s wife.
Violet Potter, a student of the school, organised 66 children to walk out of school in protest. The pupils of Burston School marched around the village with cards hanging around their necks saying “WE WANT OUR TEACHERS BACK”. The banner at the head of the march said just one word: “JUSTICE”.
Refusing to go back to the school, the children were educated in makeshift school rooms around the village. Supported by the wider labour movement, as word of their struggle spread, supporters donated funds for a new, independent schoolhouse. Annie continued to dispute her dismissal for over 25 years. There has never been an official resolution to the dispute.
For more on Annie Higdon and the Burston School Strike, see