Born in Warwickshire, Joseph Arch started work aged nine as a crow scarer. In the 1870s he was one of the leaders in the struggle of agricultural workers for a living wage and better conditions and, when the National Agricultural Labourers Union was founded in 1872, Arch was elected its first president. In the 1880s Arch turned his attention to campaigning for widening the franchise to include agricultural workers in the 1884 Parliamentary Reform Act. Elected to parliament, Arch was the first agricultural labourer to enter the House of Commons. In 1893 Arch was appointed as a member of the Royal Commission on the Aged Poor. He died in 1919, aged 92.