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Our Mary: The Life of Mary Turner

This biography tells the extraordinary story of Mary Turner (1938- 2017), the Brent dinner lady and trade union activist who rose to become president of the GMB union and chair of the Labour Party.


Proud, fiery and determined when it came to standing up to exploitative employers, the privileged and the powerful; practical, compassionate and nurturing when it came to her members, the disadvantaged, or the victims of injustice: Mary Turner (1938-2017) was president of the GMB union for twenty years. This book tells the story of her life and, through it, charts the recent history of the British labour movement: from the People’s Marches for Jobs in 1981 and 1983, through the miners’ strike, to more recent struggles against cutbacks in local government, the depredations of multinational corporations, and the scourge of austerity.

Our Mary outlines Mary Turner’s instrumental role in the survival of the GMB as an independent union, and its unprecedented growth in membership after 2005. This is an essential text for those interested in trade union history and the British labour movement, and will be of interest to anyone seeking inspiration from the life of this committed activist and campaigner – a woman whose first thought and prime concern was always the happiness, security and betterment of her members and all those whom she served.


The most outstanding woman trade unionist of her generation.

– Paul Kenny, former General Secretary of the GMB


Mary paved the way for so many women in the labour movement

– Jeremy Corbyn

The first lady of the labour movement

– Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror

Mary is no ordinary woman, She may have started life in an ordinary family, working in an ordinary workplace, and she may have had an ordinary job, but Our Mary has done so many extraordinary things.

– Penny Robinson, President GMB London region

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