Women ans Work

Women and Work 1914-1930

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Events up to 1914:

1851 women made up 30.2% of workforce, 29% in 1901 women’s work not recorded

Domestic Service is the biggest employer throughout- by 1881 1 in 3 girls 15-20 employed as domestic servants Many preferred factory work, by 1889 over half a million worked in factories.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 women in the country. By 1914 clerical workers were ranked 3rd in the list of popular occupations for middle class

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 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. 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

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Trade Unions

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


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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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