The factory owners were not pleased. They sacked the women who they suspected of talking to Besant. In response, Besant helped the rest of the women in the factory to form a trade union, which came out on strike. With the support of some of the press and the generosity of the public, money was collected to aid the striking women. Many people stopped buying Bryant and May matches.
At first, the owners of the factory stated that they would not take the strikers back into their employ. But on 21 July they gave in to the demands of the match girls, ended the fines system and re-employed those who had been sacked, ending the strike. However, it was to be many more years before they stopped using the dangerous phosphorous.
This was the first time a union of unskilled workers had succeeded in striking for better pay and working conditions. It inspired unions across the country. Within a year, the London dockworkers were on strike, confident that if the match girls could succeed, then so could they.