History Women and Jobs

Women and work


Opening up the world of work

1857-  Sewing machine invented

1867 - Agricultural Gangs Act bans employment of young girls

1874- Factory Act introduces max 10 hour day for women in factories

1879- Introduction of the telephone meant new clerical opportunities

1888- Annie Besant organises  1st women’s strike at Bryant and May match factory

1906-13 Shops Acts establish 64 hr working week

1909- Trade Boards Act settle minimum rates of pay in box making, lace making, chain making

1914-18 -War – women working1919- Sex Disqualification Removal Act  makes it illegal to bar women because of gender

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Key Individuals

 Key Individuals:

  •  Clementina Black – Writer who travelled Britain persuading women to join Trade Unions.

Campaigned for equal pay and for improved working conditions

  • Emma Smith – became secretary to the women’s suffrage association in 1872.

Founded the women’s Protective and  Provident League (later the women’s trade union league)

Attended trade union congress until her death in 1886.

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Events up to 1914

 Very little evidence of on women’s work to draw meaningful conclusions

  In 1851 women made up 30.2% of workforce, 29% in 1901- under-representation – women’s work not recorded  

Domestic Service is the biggest employer throughout- by 1881 1 in 3 girls 15-20 employed as domestic servants- for w-class women

Many preferred factory work, by 1889 over half a million worked in factories – north of england. Young, single women had opportunities for 1st time.  

New technology – telephone, typewriter important from 1880s.  By 1914 the Post Office was largest single employer of middle-class women in the country. By 1914 clerical workers were ranked 3rd in the list of popular occupations for middle class

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Events up to 1914 (2)

 Revolution in production of retail goods meant the rise of department and other stores – shop work second most popular occupation for m-class behind teaching.  Work was clean, respectable, but hours long – 85 hour week.

  Women could become teachers, but the legal profession remained closed until after WW1.  Medicine – nursing acceptable by 1880s, however problematic due to bodies! Upper middle-class women were appointed as managing sisters, w-class as nurses.  

1874 – EGA and SJB opened London School of medicine for women to show women could do job of male doctors.  

Government legislation between 1867 and 1914, led to restrictions in women’s working hours and opportunities eg women could only work in all female agricultural gangs after 1867

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Trade Unions

 Male workers had been organised into trade unions throughout 19th century.

Women paid considerably less than men.  Would women, with lower pay undercut them and take their jobs?

In 1875 Emma Paterson formed the Women’s Protective and Provident League it represented dressmakers, upholsterers, bookbinders, shop assistants and typists. 1903 it became the women’s Trade Union League they put pressure on gov. to improve conditions Impact of the war:

1915 – Women’s War Register set up, within 2 weeks over 33,000 women had enrolled.  Many worked in munitions

Dilution meant that they did not learn the full range of skills – DISCRIMINATION! And women payed a fraction of men.  Paid less even if they did the same job.

However the war did bring issue of a woman’s place to the fore

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1918-1930 Discrimination!

 During the war 4.5 million women worked.  By 1921 the female industrial workforce was 2%lower than it had been in 1914.

Male trade unions  demanded women’s working hours be reduced, they said women’s working role must be compatible with household duties.

Gov. provided help for unemployed women through Unemployment Insurance from 1921- benefits lower than male rate.

A reorganisation of the civil service meant women lost out in 1919. Married women could be barred from teaching

Women doctors, nurses, health workers were dismissed when married Domestic service remained as largest employer

HOWEVER- By 1927 77 women had become barristers Women entering the medical profession reached 7.4% In 1925

New industries meant new opportunities eg in midlands.

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