Women, workplace militancy and political subjectivity in Britain, 1968-1985

Moss, Jonathan Thomas (2015) Women, workplace militancy and political subjectivity in Britain, 1968-1985. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the experiences and political subjectivity of women who engaged in workplace protest in Britain between 1968 and 1985. The study covers a period that has been identified with the ‘zenith’ of trade-union militancy in British labour history. The women’s liberation movement also emerged in this period, which produced a shift in public debates about gender roles and relations in the home and the workplace. Women’s trade union membership increased dramatically and trade unions increasingly committed themselves to supporting ‘women’s issues’. Industrial disputes involving working-class women have frequently been cited as evidence of women’s growing participation in the labour movement. However, the voices and experiences of female workers who engaged in workplace protest remain largely unexplored. This thesis addresses this space through an original analysis of the 1968 sewing-machinists’ strike at Ford, Dagenham; the 1976 equal pay strike at Trico, Brentford; the 1972 Sexton shoe factory occupation in Fakenham, Norfolk; the 1981 Lee Jeans factory occupation in Greenock, Inverclyde and the 1984-1985 sewing-machinists’ strike at Ford Dagenham. Drawing upon a combination of oral history and written sources, this study contributes a fresh understanding of the relationship between feminism, workplace activism and trade unionism during the years 1968-1985. In every dispute considered in this thesis, women’s behaviour was perceived by observers as novel, ‘historic’ or extraordinary. But the women did not think of themselves as extraordinary, and rather understood their behaviour as a legitimate and justified response to their everyday experiences of gender and class antagonism. The industrial disputes analysed in this thesis show that women’s workplace militancy was not simply a direct response to women’s heightened presence in trade unions. The women involved in these disputes were more likely to understand their experiences of workplace activism as an expression of the economic, social and subjective value of their work. Whilst they did not adopt a feminist identity or associate their action with the WLM, they spoke about themselves and their motivations in a manner that emphasised feminist values of equality, autonomy and self-worth.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > History
Funder's Name: UNSPECIFIED
Supervisor's Name: Bracke, Dr. Maud Anne and Abrams, Professor Lynn
Date of Award: 2015
Embargo Date: 27 April 2019
Depositing User: Jonathan Moss
Unique ID: glathesis:2015-7259
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 May 2016 14:19
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2016 08:57
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7259

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