Manchester Black Women’s Co-op

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In 1975 Olive Morris moved to Manchester to take up a Degree in Social Sciences. As it was her practice she immediately set out to create links and help organising the local Black community. Together with Ada Phillips, Kath Locke and other women, they founded the Manchester Black Women’s Co-op.

The Co-op was re-formed as Abasindi Co-operative in 1980, after Olive’s death.

In her paper: Silent Warriors: The Women of Abasindi Co-operative, Diane Watt PhD, describes the origins of Abasindi and mentions Olive Morris.

In Manchester, these forms of political activism included women such as the late Ada Phillips, Kath Locke and Olive Morris who was at that time a student at Manchester University and a founder member of The Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD). […]

[The Manchester Black Women’s Co-operative] was established to create a self-help educational programme within the community geared especially to the needs of young mothers. From this basis of concern there developed an office skills training programme and opportunities for young people to become involved with various community based initiatives. In turn, this situation exposed the author and other young women to a range of political actions on behalf of the community.

During 1979 the members of the Black Women’s Co-operative undertook a lengthy and critical review of the organisation’s achievements and developments. The women concluded that in spite of some of the activities, the project was not as effective as it should be in significantly involving black women in the development of their community. Hence the need to widen the Co-operative’s activities and areas of interest. Furthermore, it was agreed that the group should show itself to be both autonomous and self-determining.

With these objectives in mind, the membership decided to reform as Abasindi. On the 1st January 1980, Kath Locke, Duduzile Lethlaku, Yvonne Hypolite, Maria Noble, Popgee Manderson, Madge Gordon, Abena Braithwaite, Shirley Inniss, and the author were among the local women who founded the Abasindi Women’s Co-op. Two of the women were born in this country of English and Nigerian parentage and the others were from Barbados, Trinidad, Aruba, South Africa and Jamaica. For a number of years, Abasindi was based in the Moss Side People’s Centre, formerly St. Mary’s Primary school and now the site of a privately run children’s nursery. The People’s Centre at that time also housed a number of community groups including the Moss Side Adventure Playgroup, The Family Advice Centre and a project for young people. Approximately one year after Abasindi was formed, Moss Side’s reputation as an inner city area with particular social problems was the subject of much media attention. This was in 1981 when alongside cities such as Bristol, Birmingham, London and Liverpool; it became the site of four days of social disturbance.


9 Responses to “Manchester Black Women’s Co-op”

  1. 1 Sam
    February 13, 2012 at 11:27 pm

    Hi there- We have started a Black Feminists Group in Manchester and would love for women to get involved. It would be great to hear more about the black women that founded the Black Womens Co op, and for women to join us!
    Big question – Is this co op still running?


    In sisterhood
    Sam x

    • October 24, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Hi Sam

      In the Olive Morris Collection, at Lambeth Archives, we registered 30 interviews with people who knew Olive Morris. There are around 6 or 7 interviews done in Machester, there you will find reference to women that were part of the Coop, with their names it should’t be difficult to track them down asking around in activist circles. Get in tocuh with Lambeth Archives, they might be able to send you transcripts of the interviews via mail.

  2. 3 Natalie Sims
    February 12, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Does anyone have anymore information on Ada Philips??

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