Women have always worked, whether in paid jobs, or in the home, and often in both. But their work is generally unrecognised and undervalued. Today, women comprise nearly half of the UK’s workforce. While there have been many important changes in recent decades, there are many continuities in the issues women workers face in the workplace.
Many people think that the majority of women did not do waged work until the second half of the twentieth century brought social change, the women’s liberation movement and equality legislation. This is a myth, and we now have evidence that women’s paid work has a long history dating back to even before the industrial revolution.
This section gives an account of women’s waged work in the UK from the 19th century onwards. The issues examined here include the nature and types of work available to women, pay and conditions at work, women’s struggles for rights and the particular issues facing migrant women workers.