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Title: Gender, class and identity : cotton workers in Oldham and Bolton, 1920-1950
Author: Brookes, Victoria
ISNI:       0000 0004 2680 6600
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2005
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My study concentrates upon the experiences of cotton workers in Bolton and Oldham during the 1930s and 1940s, using trade union and employers' association archives at Manchester's John Rylands University Library. I also investigate business records, official government papers, newspapers, oral accounts and pictorial evidence. My thesis is organised into five chapters: Labour Shortages and Domestic Recruitment; Labour Shortages and Overseas Recruitment; Working Conditions; Occupational Health; and Factory Discipline. Chapter One investigates the recruitment methods used to encourage men and women into cotton mills, as labour shortages escalated during the 1940s. I examine how gendered notions surrounding male and female employment influenced recruitment campaigns, and how the shortage of women for mill work after the Second World War meant that the government's policy towards female labour differed in Lancashire from the rest of Britain. With the infiltration of women into departments previously dominated by men, I explore the impact upon the gendered division of labour and the tactics employed by male operatives to retain men's status in the mill. The difficulty in attracting British operatives to a declining, yet essential, industry in terms of Britain's post-war economic recovery, led the government to embark upon a recruitment drive overseas. Chapter Two investigates the government's selection of immigrant labour based on stereotypes of suitable racial characteristics. I examine how the government's policy concerning foreign workers was determined by concerns over native workers' reactions to the scheme, and how British operatives' response to immigrants was influenced by the threat they posed to paid employment and to gender, class and national identities. One way of attracting labour was to improve working conditions. Chapter Three looks at changes to working practices and the mill environment, and how these impacted upon gender divisions at work. I examine the link between the provision of new factory facilities, and the reaffirmation of separate sexual identities for men and women working in mixed sex departments. Chapter Four investigates the occupational health aspects of cotton production. I explore the pride associated with the physical characteristics gained from mill work. I also study the impact that the gendered division of labour, and notions regarding the respectable appearance of men and women, had upon the types of illnesses from which they suffered and the treatment they sought. Chapter Five investigates factory discipline, linking skill and gender hierarchies with the ways in which men and women experienced and preformed discipline in the mill. I examine how ideas relating to the appropriate behaviour of men and women affected their reactions towards violence and sexual harassment at work. I also explore how the gendered division of labour determined the different types of discipline used, and the degree of supervision men and women received in the mill. In conclusion, I suggest that men and women's experiences in the cotton mills, and their relationship with colleagues, was not only linked to economic uncertainty, but was also closely connected to perceptions of class, gender and identity at work.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available