Women in History Part 1
For over 100 years, women have worked in a male dominated environment and still found that today, they still hit ‘the glass ceiling’ in terms of equal pay and access to top jobs. We’ve had a previous female Prime Minister and we have one now and there are countless other countries where women have become leaders in their own right. One of the reasons for women succeeding in the political sphere is simply because the public is able to be almost emphatic towards a woman and women are much more appealing and trustworthy than male politicians. The recent U.S elections apart and the way Hillary Clinton was portrayed in the media has been a set back to the momentum gained by women fighting for equality for the last 150 years or so.
Traditionally, we have always had clearly defined roles for men and women when it came to working roles and what constituted a man’s job and vice versa what constituted a woman’s job.
Historically across Europe, women were the child bearers, the mothers, the cooks, the shoppers, the cleaners and housekeepers and the men went to work and brought in the bread. These roles were prevalent and clearly defined from Edwardian time’s right through to the turn of the century when the Industrial Revolution was in full swing and at its peak in the 19th century. During industrialisation, women and children were expected to work in horrendous conditions in the work houses and often in the mills or mines with the children and men: the hours were long and conditions were hard and dangerous with many being killed on a regular basis.
A personal account from Hannah Goode, who worked in a Lancashire textile factory in 1886, gave a stark image of the way they were treated: “I work at Mr. Wilson’s Mill. I think the youngest child is about 7. I daresay there are altogether twenty nippers under 9 years working here…Mr William Crookes is the Overlooker in our room. He is cross-tempered sometimes but does not beat me; he regularly beats the little children if they don’t do their work right”
Another personal account from a six year old child Harry Jonas, working in a South Wales Mine in 1888: “I have been down six weeks and make 10 to 14 rakes a day; I back carry a full 56 lbs of coal in a wooden bucket. I work with my sister Jesse and mother. It is dark when we get here and it’s dark by the time we go”
Women also faced the added burden of societies demand for children. The industrial age led to a rapid increase in birth rates which clearly had an impact upon the physical strength of the mothers. It was not uncommon for families to have up to more than 10 children and as a result of this demand, the woman would often have to work right up to and straight after, the day of the child’s birth for financial reasons, leaving the care of the new born child to older children and relatives.
Part 2 to follow
“Industrial Revolution-Women in World History Curriculum.. n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.
 “The Origins of Women’s Rights Movements.” – Washington State Historical Society, Washington
State Historical Society, n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.