Female Labour Power: Women Workers’ Influence on Business Practices in the British and American Cotton Industries, 1780–1860  book cover
1st Edition

Female Labour Power: Women Workers’ Influence on Business Practices in the British and American Cotton Industries, 1780–1860

ISBN 9781138266520
Published November 15, 2016 by Routledge
264 Pages

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Book Description

Britain and America were the first two countries with mechanised cotton manufacturing industries, the first major factory systems of production and the first major employers of women outside of the domestic environment. The combination of being new wage earners in the first trans-national industry and their public prominence as workers makes these women's role as employees significant; they set the early standard for women as waged labour, to which later female workers were compared. This book analyses how women workers influenced patterns of industrial organization and offers a new perspective on relationships between gender and work and on industrial development. The primary theme of the study is the attempt to control the work process through co-operation, coercion and conflict between women workers, their male counterparts and manufacturers. Drawing upon examples of women's subversive activities and attitudes toward the discourses of labour, the book emphasizes the variety of women's work experiences. By using this diversity of experience in a comparative way, the book reaches conclusions that challenge a variety of historical concepts, including separate spheres of influence for men and women and related economic theories, for example that women were passive players in the workplace, evolutionary theories with respect to industrial development, and business culture within and between the two industries. Overall it provides the fresh approach that highlights and explains women's agency as operatives and paid workers during industrialization.

Table of Contents

Contents: General editor's preface; Women, work and cotton manufacturing; Organising the factory: manufacturers' choices; The choices for work in textile communities; Millwork: pay, work and equity; A time to work; Collective action; Gender, health and working conditions; Conclusion: women's impact on industrial development; Bibliography; Index.

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Janet Greenlees is Lecturer in History at Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.


’Janet Greenlees' goal in this very fine study is to provide a more complicated and nuanced view of the role of women workers in industry... one of the strengths of this book is the variety of secondary sources used in her summary of the work on women and industrialization... Greenlees has done a wonderful job integrating the analysis of economists and historians in her historiography and throughout the study... a must read for cotton textile scholars and scholars of women's role in early industry.’ EH.net ’ (a) remarkable book ... The freshness of Greenlees’s approach and scholarship breathes new life into the historiography of early textile industrialization, turning our attention away from deindustrialization and globalization. She strives for a balance between gender and class analysis, an intersection of business and labor history, and a reassessment of the assumptions about early industrial processes. ’ American Historical Review ’[Greenlees's] thesis is well-developed and the writing is clear, concise and varied. Because of her examination of a broad range of mills in both the United States and Great Britain and because of the fresh look it takes, this volume is definitely a valuable addition to the literature regarding labour, technology, and mill work during the period of early industrialization.’ Technology and Culture ’...the book is beautifully produced and crafted. ... Cogently argued throughout, this book is a major work of historical research.’ Labour History Review ’The book makes an important and thought provoking contribution to the literature on the rise of the factory system, especially in relation to appreciating the values, needs and priorities of the female workers within it...’ Northern History