Under Mary Macarthur's leadership, the NFWW supported World War 1 and the industrial truce called by the TUC. Sylvia Pankhurst labelled Mary Macarthur’s work in the Central Committee for the Employment of Women (CCEW) as a ‘gross betrayal’ given that the rates paid fell below those set by the first Trade Boards.
However Mary Macarthur was a strong supporter of equal pay for women and her work during the war is testimony to this. She discovered that although the TUC had supported equal pay in policy terms since 1888, very little was done to fight for the policy in any meaningful way. Job titles were changed and adjustments made, usually of a simple type, so that the women’s work could never be declared to be the same as that of men and thus not eligible for equal pay. Hence the demand was changed by Mary and the women themselves from ‘equal pay for equal work’ to ‘equal wages to workers of equal value’. This clearly presaged the 20th century equal value demand given the disappointment of the Equal Pay legislation.
In 1920 the NFWW voted to merge with the National Union of General Workers. Mary strongly supported this, but had no inkling that her union would, eventually be totally submerged within the men’s organisation. She did not live to see this unfortunate outcome. She died five months after the merger.