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Beatrice Green

Born Beatrice Dykes in 1895 at Abertillery, Monmouthshire, she was the youngest of the seven children of William and Mary Dykes. Her father was a tin worker who became a miner when she was 5 years old. Her introduction to public life came through the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where she played a very active role in the Sunday school. After a County school education at Abertillery she became a teacher. She was said to have a 'charming personality and brilliant gifts'. Although very obviously talented in her profession, she was forced by the marriage bar then in operation to give up teaching on her marriage to Ronald Emlyn Green, a miner, on 22 April 1916 at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Beatrice developed an interest in public work and by the early 1920's she was deeply involved with supporting the local district hospital and the women's section of the Abertillery Labour Party. In common with other labour women in South Wales at this time, she did not call for radical transformation of gender roles in society. She did, however, believe that women should gain control over those areas of life which most concerned them and to this end they should engage in public work on the same terms as men.
Green worked tirelessly as the secretary of the hospital's Linen League from its inauguration on 30 August 1922. The group was made up of about 40 or so local women, including two of Beatrice's sisters and a number of Labour Party women, who worked to supply the hospital's linen and washing services. They organised fund-raising events in order to purchase materials and used their own sewing skills to make items such as sheets and pillowcases. During its first year of formation, the League had supplied over 1,300 articles to the hospital, of which members themselves had made 800. Her fellow workers attributed much of the League's success to Beatrice Green personally. In 1923 it was decided that League membership should entail an annual subscription and extend its purpose, serving as a social club with regular social events for its members. The League was also consulted on developments in the hospital such as David Daggar's proposal for a birth control clinic to be introduced in the hospital in 1925. As the League's representative on the board of management, Green was closely involved with much of the hospital's decision-making. During the twenties she became a close friend of Marie Stopes who was a fundamental figure in the clinic's formation. Green herself was a supporter of the clinic,although the League, like the local women's section, did not unanimously back its introduction to the hospital. The clinic lasted for 16 months before it was forced to close due to intense opposition led by the local clergy,
By 1926, Green was the mother of two sons, (Kenneth & John), but this does not seem to have prevented her from fully engaging as an activist, including being the President of the Monmouthshire Labour Women's Advisory Council.  She threw herself into work for the WCRMWC. As part of this work, Green helped to form a Maternity Relief Committee in Abertillery which focused specifically on women in confinement, channelling funds from the WCRMWC to ensure that these women had enough food, milk, blankets and clothing for the period both before and after birth. Green was also involved with the fostering scheme, which the WCRMWC organised to provide very needy children with temporary homes. In July of that year Beatrice Green and Elizabeth Andrews accompanied a group of 50 miners' children from Dowlais, Merthyr, Rhondda and Abertillery to London to be looked after by foster families for the duration of the Lockout.
Green was also a talented writer and speaker. The July edition of Labour Woman contained an interview with Green, in which she vividly describes life in Abertillery including details of the Poor Relief system and what it was like to be a mother of a large family without a waged income coming in. Moving accounts such as these, were not overly sentimental but carefully composed to provide meaningful insights, it meant that Green could really convey the reality of the Lockout to those outside mining areas.
It is not surprising then that Green was asked to speak at rallies in London and was asked to participate in a MFGB delegation to the Soviet Union. The nineteen strong delegation, which included six women representing miners' wives in different coalfields, was designed to cement the bond between British miners and Soviet workers following the donations sent by Russian trade unionists to miners for relief in the Lockout. Green felt that she had no option but to leave her young sons with their father and maternal grandparents at 51 Duke Street, Abertillery. It was a lengthy trip from 27 August to 16 October during which the British women visited workplaces, clubs, hospitals and schools and explored many aspects of Soviet life. Travelling by train and mostly sleeping in their compartment, the women delegates toured the country extensively, including Muslim areas where women traditionally wore a veil. According to Marian Phillips the trip was 'a crowning happiness in her life' during which she blossomed as a speaker, writer and activist and made firm bonds with the other women delegates. Green sent in two long articles to Labour Woman recounting her experiences. Although not declaring herself a Communist, Green was clearly impressed with the Soviet system, and wrote that women had achieved equality. She was entirely uncritical of the Soviet Union, but viewed from a modern day perspective these articles seem somewhat naive.
Green herself was certainly a woman of action and remained so until her untimely death at the Aberbeeg Hospital, Monmouthshire on 19 October 1927, where at just 32 years of age she died of ulcerative colitis. She was not someone who was prepared to sit back and allow the injustices of the system go unchallenged. If she was involved in an organisation, she immersed herself completely in it's work. As Reverend W R Lewis put it, 'She was always right in the centre of things....if she was in a movement she put all of her energy and might into it' (South Wales Gazette, 21 October 1927). As someone of perpetual motion who worked to benefit others, the ambulance that the people of Abertillery named after her was a fitting tribute. Her commitment to the causes in which she believed knew no bounds. At a memorial service for Green, Marion Phillips, referring to Green's political activism described her' a woman who took a real interest in work - in fact, she worked too hard, and had given liberally to the cause she loved' (South Wales Gazette, 23 December 1927). In an obituary in Labour Woman, Phillips drew attention to the part played by the harshness and uncertainty of the times in reducing Green's life. 'I believe that it was this anxiety that added to present hardship which broke her physical resistance and brought her to this early and unexpected end. Her life is added to the long line of those whose fine texture is rent in the struggle against overwhelming odds' (Labour Woman, November 1927). Although her political career had spanned a relatively short period, by the time of her death she had established an impressive political track record and would have had a promising future ahead of her in the labour movement. In Marion Phillips opinion she possessed all the qualities required to become an excellent leader, qualities that in all probability would have ensured her place in Parliament..
Beatrice Green was buried at Blaenau Gwent Chapelyard, her funeral report was published in the South Wales Gazette on 28 October 1927.

Beatrice Green

1894 electoral register - 8 Cwm Street, Abertillery
William Dykes

1901 census 41 Somerset Street, Abertillery
William Dykes - 46
Mary Dykes - 43
Thomas Dykes - 20
William Dykes - 15
Arthur Dykes - 9
Beatrice Dykes - 6
absent siblings Elizabeth, Margaret and Mary.

1927 electoral register - 51 Duke Street, Abertillery
William Nicholas Dykes (d 1942)
Mary Ann Dykes (d 1942)
Ronald Emlyn Green (b 1892)
Beatrice Green.

An article and photograph appeared in the South Wales Gazette dated 08 March 1940 on the occasion of the 60th wedding anniversary of Mr & Mrs William Dykes, an inscribed walking stick given to Mr. Dykes is still with the family.

Online references:

Beatrice Green Dictionary of Labour Biography.
The Men and Women of 1926 by Sue Bruley

Beatrice Green

Thomas Dykes the eldest brother of Beatrice Green played club rugby for Abertillery and was a member of the Abertillery side that drew 3-3 with the Australian tourists at Abertillery Park on 22 December 1908.
It was the 28th scheduled match of the Australian tour and the first time on that tour that they failed to cross their opponents line.
Memorabilia belonging to Thomas Dykes was donated to the Abertillery Museum.

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