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Loughlin, Anne (1894–1979)

Loughlin, Anne (1894–1979)

British trade unionist. Name variations: Dame Anne Loughlin. Born on June 28, 1894, in Leeds, England; died in 1979; eldest of four daughters of a shoe-factory worker; attended elementary school in Leeds until the age of 12; never married; no children.

Born in 1894 in Leeds, England, Anne Loughlin was the eldest of four daughters of a shoe-factory worker. When Anne was 12, her mother died; her father died four years later. To support her sisters, Loughlin took a job as a machine worker in a local factory at ten shillings a week, out of which she had to pay a penny a week for hot water and was fined threepence for being even 15 minutes late. Quickly sensing a need to improve conditions, she joined the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, and shortly thereafter led 200 young women workers in a formal strike. It was then that she realized her natural gift for oratory and, even more important, her ability to negotiate after the speeches were over. Continuing her formal education at night school, Loughlin became an organizer for the 10,000-member union in 1914, a job that took her throughout the British Isles to negotiate, consult on factory conditions, and settle disputes.

In 1929, Loughlin was elected to the General Council of the powerful Trades Union Congress, of which she was selected chair in 1943, the same year she was made a Dame of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In 1948, she was elected as the first woman general secretary of the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, an event that was hailed by the London Times as "an important victory for the Right wing." In December 1949, she was one of two women (the other being Florence Hancock ) on the British delegation sent to the Free World Labor Conference. That conference resulted in the new International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, organized in opposition to the Communist-dominated World Federation of Trade Unions.

Small of stature (barely 5′ tall), Loughlin was described as bringing a "brisk and businesslike efficiency" to her work. Never married, she lived in the country, in Hertfordshire, commuting to and from work in London, and filling her weekends with speeches, conferences, or lectures, all work related. She retired as general secretary of the Union in 1953, due to ill health, and died in 1979.


Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1950.

Uglow, Jennifer. The Continuum Dictionary of Women's Biography. NY: Continuum, 1989.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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