The employment of working class women in Leeds, 1880-1914
Between 1880 and 1914 women's industrial employment in Leeds was transformed by the introduction of the factory system in the consumer-goods trades. Women came to predominate in ready-made tailoring, but have been neglected in histories of the city. Recent studies have argued that a. focus on the sex division of labour in social production challenges conventional interpretations of working-class history. This thesis contributes to current debates by examining women's work in Leeds. It argues that the sex division of labour and the tensions between sex and class had a critical impact on the development of the local labour movement. Studies of women's work have shown the importance of regional variations in the pattern of female employment. Leeds provides the opportunity to study a hitherto neglected group, - female factory workers employed outside cotton textiles. Wonen's subordinate role within industry and their attitudes to work were structured by the experience of work itself as well as by their early socialisatjon and role in the family. The first section examines the conditions of women's industrial employment. It suggests that job segregation by sex structured the specific features of women's work in Leeds. Section two locates the extent and type of womens work in Leeds in the context of the social conditions of family life and contemporary expectations of appropriate sex roles. The varied family backgrounds, age and marital status affected the attitudes of individual women to paid employment and modified its effects. The final section examines the attitudes of the Leeds labour movement towards women workers and the tensions between sex and class. The labour movement failed to address women's needs and to offer a real challenge to their subordinate industrial position. This weakened union organisation and independent labour politics in the city.