A Woman’s Place: Film Club

International Women’s Day, 8th March 2021

There is plenty of film evidence of women working in heavy industry during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Many of the recordings available relate to the work of women in the first and second world wars, when there was an exponential increase of female labour in industry.

The commentary is very reflective of the times, and seems both anachronistic and in places unacceptable in tone and content in 2021. There are some really interesting clues to how society was feeling about having to adapt to the changes in the workforce make up: the immortal phrase ‘Women scare me!’ in the Supervising Women Workers film is very telling of the threat that was often perceived. Although there is still much work to be done on matters such as equal pay and opportunity, I hope we have moved on since then.

Men and women working together: cartoon in ‘The Post’ newspaper from the Union of Post Office Workers, 28 June 1941, illustrating an article encouraging women members to become active in their union branches; TUC Library Collection

Women in science and industry: focus on coal and steel

Women’s protest: the fight for better representation, working conditions and equal pay

Union official Jayaben Desai’s direct action to eliminate institutional racism and secure better pay and conditions for herself and her fellow workers at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratory, London, 1976 – 78

Women workers in the Wars

Local women and their impact

Podcasts

Pioneering Minds series from the Common Room of the Great North: a fantastic series about one of the north east’s most renowned and successful engineering companies, Parson, and the two women who were influential in promoting the prominence of women in engineering.

Lady Katherine Parsons: https://soundcloud.com/user-402768388/podcast-2-introducing-lady-katherine-parsons

Rachel Parsons: https://soundcloud.com/user-402768388/pioneering-minds-podcast-3-introducing-rachel-parsons

The history of the Women’s Engineering Society is described in this podcast by Helen Close, the Society’s Centenary Trail Project Officer: https://maxcommunications.co.uk/helen-close-womens-engineering-society/

In this BBC radio documentary, Professor Emma Griffin examines the lives of working women during the industrial revolution, through a rich body of neglected sources – working-class autobiography: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/b055fzlt