Women and the labour movement in Scotland, 1850-1914

Gordon, Eleanor J. (1985) Women and the labour movement in Scotland, 1850-1914. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b1257692


In recent years there has been a concerted effort by feminist
historians to retrieve women from historical obscurity and
reinsert them into the historical landscape. Early research
concentrated on this task of reclamation and produced a number
of self-contained monographs and studies of women's lives.
However, the emphasis has shifted towards viewing the sexual
divison of labour as a central object of study and as a tool of
analysis and evaluating its impact on the historical process.
It is argued that in this way feminist history can transform
our knowledge of the past and contribute to a greater understanding
of the process of historical change.
The present study seeks to contribute to this project by
examining the lives of working women in Scotland between 1850
and 1914. It takes issue with standard accounts which assume
that women's paid labour and women's organisation at the
point of production will take male forms and argues that gender
ideologies had a significant impact on women's experience of
The pattern of women's employment 1S examined and it is
illustrated that because work has been defined according to the
male norm of full-time permanent work, outside the home, the
extent of women's paid labour has been seriously underestimated.
It is also argued that in order to account for the characteristics
of female employment it is necessary to take ideological factors
into consideration and that notions of what constitutes women's 'proper' role in society had a
pattern of women's employment.
important role played by trade
powerful influence on the
The study identifies the
unions in maintaining
occupational segregation and confirming women's work as
unskilled and low paid. It is also suggested that the model
of labour organisations was influenced inter-alia by an ideology
of gender which limited its ability to relate to the experience
of women workers. It is argued that women's experience of
work was mediated by their subordination as a gender and
that this generated particular forms of resistance and
organisation which did not necessarily conform to the standard
male forms.
The study concludes that we have to reappraise the received view
of women workers as apathetic and difficult to organise and
suggests that alternative forms of labour organisations which
do not reflect but challenge gender divisions are required.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information:
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Supervisor's Name: Crowther, Anne and Burgess, Keith
Date of Award: 1985
Depositing User: Miss Louise Annan
Unique ID: glathesis:1985-4883
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2014 11:48
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2014 15:50
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4883

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