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Title: The effect of married women's employment in the cotton textile districts on the organisation and structure of the home in Lancashire, 1840-1880
Author: Hewitt, M.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3555 5776
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 1953
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To provide a background to the study, and in order to place contemporary criticism of the employment of married women in the Lancashire cotton textile district in its true perspective, the hours of work, the proportion net only of women cotton operatives who were married but also the proportion of married women in these districts who were employed in the cotton industry throughout our period are recorded. Specific social problems which arose, or were alleged by contemporaries to have arisen from the employment of wives and mothers in the mills, are then discussed in detail. The first of these is the alleged influence on the age of marriage: contemporaries maintained that the possibility of the wife continuing to earn after her marriage encouraged marriage at a very early age in these districts. On examination, however, the allegation proves to be unfounded largely because of the gross misinterpretation of the available statistical evidence by contemporary observers. Similarly, no convincing evidence could be found that the moral structure of the working class home was shattered by the impact of "cotton-mill morality". The way in which the married women operatives organised their housekeeping is described, and comparison with the general level of contemporary housewifery indicates that they were not as deficient in this respect as was generally believed. Considering the married women operatives primarily as mothers, it was found that they actually bore a smaller than average number of children; and that the consequences of the neglect of their babies during the working day further depleted the size of their families. Particular attention is paid to the effect on public opinion of the revelations of the disastrous consequences of the system of day-nursing in Lancashire. Descriptions are given of some crèches established by local philanthropists and evidence is recorded of the growing conviction that some legislative action was needed to safeguard the lives of infants in mill districts. Finally, various problems concerning which only unreliable or insufficient evidence could be collected - eg. the influence of the employment of the wife on the status of the husband in the household - are reviewed. Prom the whole of the material collected it seems clear that, with the important exception of the influence of the employment of mothers on the health and lives of their infants, the effects of married women's employment in the cotton textile district of Lancashire on their homes were by no means as calamitous as many contemporary observers held them to be.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available