The politics of female homework: with special reference to Spitalfields 1880-1909
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This thesis examines the development of female homework as a social and political issue from 1880-1909. Special attention is given to homework in Spitalfields, East London. The study examines the formation and conduct of the campaign to reform the law and preserve the 'sanctity' of the Victorian home. We focus on the role of philanthropists, social reformers, the medical profession and the Press in bringing about greater public awareness of the problem of women's homeworking; and evaluate the impact of the campaign on government policy and legislation. The thesis traces the formulation and definition of the homework problem in. four distinct but overlapping phases: as a public health issue; as a 'dangerous trade'; as a problem of Motherhood, Race and Empire; and finally of underpaid labour. The Parliamentary processes which led to the 1909 Trade Boards Act are examined. The supportive response to the legislation by The Women's Industrial Council and women trade unionists (Clementina Black and Mary MacArthur); by the militant women's suffrage campaign (the Women's Social and Political Union); and by the Press (The Lancet and The Daily News) and the Anti-Sweating League (George Cadbury, Gertrude Tuckwell et al. ) is considered as indicative of the large measure of consensus on homework which was to remain in force for more than half a century.
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