Sisterhood or surveillance? : the development of working girls' clubs in London 1880-1939
This thesis investigates the Girls' Club Movement in multi-cultural London from the l880s to 1939 and situates it within the context of gender, class and race. Part One places the clubs in their historicalcontext and critically examines issues of poverty, sexual purity, morality, femininity and ethnicity. The ways in which ideas about race superiority interacted with class superiority in the formation of middle class values are also discussed as is the contemporary perception of working class and ethnic minority cultures. The cultural gap between the social classes is highlighted as are the forms of surveillance including disguise, which were undertaken in order to gain knowledge of working class life. Part Two looks at clubs in relation to the concerns discussed in Part One. Chapter Six (and the Appendix) survey the provision of clubs in London. Chapters Seven, Eight and Nine examine the clubs under the overlapping themes of protection, discipline and empowerment. The nature of this empowerment is examined in the context of the dominant ideology of married motherhood. Drawing on little-used club records and oral evidence, the thesis suggests that the clubs were part of a middle class initiative which aimed to re-make working class culture. The interaction between the club organizers and members is examined and it is suggested that a straightforward imposition of middle class values was not possible as a variety of factors were operating. Questions are raised about the possibility of 'sisterhood' within unequal class relations and 'social mothering' is considered as a form of humanized policing.