Women workers and trade union participation in Scotland 1919-1939
This thesis seeks to provide an assessment of women’s work, their participation in the trade union movement and the extent of women’s strike activity n Scotland in the period 1919-1939. It will highlight the position of women in the labour market, their continuing confinement to a narrow range of industries and occupations and the low paid and low status nature of their work. The weakness of trade union organisation among women workers in the inter-war period will be an important consideration. It will be shown that despite the massive influx of women in to the trade unions in the First World War and the attempts by trade unions and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) to encourage greater numbers of women into the trade union movement, organisation among women in most industries remained weak throughout the entirety of the inter-war period. Therefore, this thesis will seek to offer a number of explanations for the lack of extensive trade union organisation among women during this period. These will include the occupational and industrial distribution of women workers, their low earnings, the impact of the depression, high unemployment and the failure of the General Strike. However, it will also be suggested that one of the reasons for the low level of trade union organisation among women may have been related to trade union policies and practices. The argument to be developed is that despite recruitment drives undertaken by trade unions and the STUC, trade unions themselves could often be very hostile to women workers and the failure to address issues of importance to women and the remoteness of the movement from the needs of potential women members could mean that there was very often little incentive for women to join trade unions. In order to support this argument, it will be shown that trade unions employed exclusionary tactics either by limiting the entry of women into certain areas of work, attempting to exclude women from work altogether, via agreements with employers, or by excluding women from trade union membership.