The herring girl’s strike at Melbu harbour

In the picture above we see some female workers at Melbu Harbour. Their job was to remove the gills and entrails of the herring that came off the boats. The women in the picture are wearing work clothes, one of them is sitting with a herring still in her hand. They probably had a short break from their work when they were photographed. The picture was probably taken in 1915 in connection with the spontaneous workers strike these women orchestrated. The women lay down their work and demanded better wages, working conditions and shorter working hours. The job was demanding. It was both cold and wet, and salt was rubbed into sore hands through long, hard working days. The pay was poor.

Melbu was on the rise as an industrial center and commercial center in Vesterålen. Christian Fredriksen had full control over most of what went on in Melbu, as landowner and business owner in most cases. The herring girls were of course also employed by Fredriksen. He immediately took action to put an end to the interruption of the work flow. The women were chased away from the harbor in what can perhaps be described as Vesterålen’s first lockout. Fredriksen immediately brought in fresh labor from Bø. Admittedly, the victory for Fredriksen was only temporary, and after a short time he had to bring the herring girls back and give them the salary increase they asked for. The workforce from Bø left the harbor and went home, Melbu’s very first workers’ strike had thus been successful.

In the same year, the first workers’ union at Melbu was started.

Visit Melbo Manor

Melbo Manor

From quiet farm to a small industrialized city within a few decades (1890–1920). The businessman and landowner Chr. Frederiksen was in the center of the activities. Visit the mansion that has been restored to it´s former glory.