"Silenced, suppressed and passive?" : a refocused history of Lanarkshire women, 1920-1939
This thesis is concerned with the impact that mass unemployment had on the lives of women living in Lanarkshire's industrial towns and villages during the interwar years. Before the onset of the Depression, Lanarkshire was renowned for its distinctive male identity, with women being only marginally involved in the public world of work and politics. However, the closure of many of Lanarkshire's collieries and steel and iron works during the interwar period threatened the gender 'norms' upon which community life was based. Thus, the issue at the centre of this work is the extent to which gender and power relations within the family, but also in the wider community, were altered by the experience of the Depression. It is argued that the Depression facilitated the increased presence of women in the public sphere, with many wives and mothers attempting to make social welfare concerns, such as housing and child health care provision, high profile issues. Moreover, as male unemployment reached unprecedented levels, women often found themselves in the position of being the new 'providers'. Thus, the chapters in this thesis will examine women in relation to the family economy, popular culture, paid employment and public protest. This thesis attempts a 'reshaping' of Lanarkshire's interwar history by analysing the subject in terms of gender and gender identities. Most research on industrial communities during the Depression has tended to be viewed solely from a male perspective and has focused on the intricacies of industrial decline, the fortunes of the trade union movements and the miners' strikes of the 1920s. By investigating the private world of the family, as well as the public issue of welfare politics, this thesis restores women to the analysis, while challenging the conventional historiography that has classified women as being 'silenced, suppressed and passive'.