Gender constructions and gender relations in cotton and chain-making in England: A contested and varied terrain
Women's History Review
While scholars have emphasised the positioning of women as wives and mothers in working-class culture in late nineteenth-century England, their position in the workforce remained significant, even in such disparate industries as cotton and chain-making. In the former, while excluded from spinning, women's employment in powerloom weaving brought them into the heart of the production process, encouraging their participation in workplace struggles and ultimately influencing a transformation in the working-class family in terms of fertility control. In chain-making, while some male workers attempted to position women in the domestic sphere, others were dependent on their labour. Cultural constructions of gender were thus undermined, as the struggle for the minimum wage superseded attempts to remove women from the workforce. In neither industry was equality between men and women realised, while antagonism on the basis of gender persisted. Yet women's identification with their work remained evident while mutuality across gender lines was also apparent, as women themselves played an active role in the shaping of gender relations. Conceptions of gender, as they intersected with particular labour market structures, thus came under duress. Consequently, a more complex picture of gender in working-class life emerges than an analysis which privileges cultural constructions would allow.
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
Morgan, Carol E., "Gender constructions and gender relations in cotton and chain-making in England: A contested and varied terrain" (1997). Faculty Publications. 3963.