‘A Docile Workforce’? Women, Work and Political Identity

Annmarie Hughes

in Gender and Political Identities in Scotland, 1919-1939

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639816
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653522 | DOI:
‘A Docile Workforce’? Women, Work and Political Identity

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The expediency of the discourse used by employers, trade unionists and male workers that identified women workers as docile and politically apathetic has been bolstered by a historiography which argues that the nature of women's work between the wars meant that they were unlikely to be politicised by it. Domestic service, and office and retail jobs, the principal occupations of Scottish women, were not noted for their capacity to heighten class consciousness. In contrast to the expansion of blue-collar factory jobs employing men which resulted in greater levelling and possibilities for enhanced class awareness, women's work in domestic service, clerical occupations, and shops was scattered, sidelined and in close proximity to employers. Seemingly, the nature of this work made it subject to paternalistic influences and capable of imbuing women with a false sense of status, which in turn constrained their class awareness. Yet the extent of female activism and the varieties of women's militancy were as diverse as their work experiences. Many women expressed a consciousness of class membership that was shaped by their experiences of work. They responded to the effects of capitalism at the point of production both overtly and covertly using a range of strategies.

Keywords: women workers; Scottish women; class awareness; capitalism; female activism; women's militancy

Chapter.  9975 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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