Leeds Industrial museum to pay tribute through an exhibition showing that these queens were not only ‘pin ups’ or ‘dolly birds’ but powerful women who raised morale in ever harder times.
These woman were ordinary people who had never left their mill town and pit villages. They had been taken from the factory floor and entered into beauty contests where they would become queen of that industry. They were representing the UK’s most important economic sectors in an industrial golden age, whether this was cotton, wool or coal.
The concept of Industry queens first came about in the 20th Century, inspired by the idea of traditional rose queens and May queens in local villages and towns. Queens were not decorative mascots. Most had worked in the industry they were chosen to represent, or had a brother or father down the pit. The queens took ambassadorial duties seriously.
Deborah Tate was the last female to become an industry queen at the age of 19. She was chosen as the Northumberland Coal queen in June 1982. She was entered into a beauty competition where they were looking for a young, glamorous female to represent the mining community. Tate was crowned in the height of the miner’s strike. She attended high profile events, met the head of state, represented the coal industry internationally and even travelled the world as an industrial ambassador. Tate was one to make sure that miners were aware of health and safety initiatives. Tate said that the job and particularly going under ground at Ellington Colliery, the last deep mine in Northumberland, helped her see the work of miners in a different light.
“Nothing can prepare you for what it’s like being underground,” she said. “With Ellington, it was seven miles out into the sea and a mile down. It really put it into perspective what these men did. It changed my life from that point; it made me appreciate what tens of thousands of men had done to help make our country great.”
The Queens of industry exhibition runs until September 2019. It tells untold stories of the working class queens. The queens of industry flew the flag for their industry, county or even country. This was seen as a life changing opportunity for these young women. Their lives were changed forever, with opportunities to star on screen and meet political figures. They became an inspiration and a female voice for their industry.
Jordans Solicitors has a department working with ex coal miners looking into their Vibration White Finger claims as it has come to light that many miners missed out on £1000’s. If you’re an ex miner and think you may have a claim, contact a member of our VWF team free on 03303 001103