Matchgirls participating in a strike against Bryant & May in London, 1888. The strike was caused by the poor working conditions in the match factory, including fourteen-hour work days and the severe health complications of working with white phosphorus.
The Matchgirls Strike ~ Annie Besant and the Matchgirls Strike Committee. She discovered that the health of the women had been severely affected by the phosphorous that they used to make the matches. This caused yellowing of the skin and hair loss and phossy jaw, a form of bone cancer. The whole side of the face turned green and then black, discharging foul-smelling pus and finally death
The sprawling Bryant and May Match Factory located in Bow and seen in this 1921 aerial view. It survived as an independent company for over seventy years, The company was founded by two Quakers, with the specific aim of making only Safety Matches. They were influential in fighting against the disease known as Phossy jaw which was caused by white phosphorus used in the manufacture of the early matches. The original Bow match factory was closed in 1979, when it still employed 275 people.