The Ascott Martyrs
Sixteen women from Ascott-under-Wychwood who were sent over the hills to glory
The remarkable story of sixteen women living in the Oxfordshire village of Ascott-under-Wychwood. In the spring of 1873, they tried to prevent two youths working in place of their menfolk, who were on strike for better wages. The women, two of whom had babies, were arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned with hard labour.
Newspaper coverage about the treatment of these women and forthcoming questions in the House of Commons brought increased publicity for the fledgling National Agricultural Labourers’ Union. It exposed for public scrutiny the exploitation of agricultural labourers – ‘the white slaves of England’ – the ineffectiveness of the Trades Union Act, and shortcomings of the legal system. Resultant reforms were far-reaching. The women were later celebrated as martyrs and several emigrated to New Zealand.