Bedminster's Tobacco Women
For around 100 years Bedminster and Ashton were dominated by the red brick buildings of Wills and other tobacco firms. Tobacco was a major part of Bristol's industrial and civil heritage, but partly because of its uncomfortable connotations it is in danger of being quietly forgotten.
Bedminster's Tobacco Women offers a glimpse into what life was like for workers in the tobacco factories, drawing on stories told by 23 local people. Their experience cover almost 50 years and every kind of job: hand-stripping the tobacco leaves, making cigars and cigarettes, security, cooks, cleaners, office staff and management.
While Wills was a benevolent employer in many respects, there was a tight discipline and rigid hierarchies of gender and status, and factory work was often hard and tedious. But the workers also had plenty of gun and they made friendships which have lasted lifetimes.
The tobacco factories have gone now, some demolished and some transformed into new ventures. But they, and the people who worked in them, are still central to the vibrant communities of Bedminster and surrounding neighbourhoods.
Bedminster Tobacco Women is a testament to all those who worked for Wills, but especially to the thousand of local women whose voices deserve to be heard.