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Women naval dockyard workers in two 19th century dockyard towns: Chatham and Plymouth

Women naval dockyard workers in two 19th century dockyard towns: Chatham and Plymouth

Ryan, Joan (2011) Women naval dockyard workers in two 19th century dockyard towns: Chatham and Plymouth. MPhil thesis, University of Greenwich.

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The study focuses on various aspects of the employment of women in the Royal Naval Dockyards of Chatham and Plymouth in the nineteenth century in order to enlarge the current body of knowledge about the lives of women workers. Through an examination of the history of the two towns and the impact of the dockyards on their inhabitants it is shown that distinctive communities evolved in these areas, with their particular version of a maritime heritage.

The dockyard workers studied here fit some but not all of the accepted theories about women’s employment, in particular that they illustrated the norms of gender-defined and very low paid work, while the differences are largely connected with their unusual position in an extremely large government organisation of longstanding, overwhelmingly dominated by male workers. Women were not employed to work alongside men in traditional dockyard crafts, but operated in specific areas. The reasons for the decisions to employ women in each case are examined, together with discussion of the developing technology associated with some of these decisions. The reasons are shown to vary, mainly between labour shortages and cost-cutting.

Comparisons are made between working in commercial enterprises in rope making and in a government organisation particularly through the Report of a Royal Commission and some trades union records. The key features are size, modern equipment and labour relations.

Information has been gathered about the ages, addresses and family status of some of the women, and used to assess the composition and social position of this segment of the female workforce. It is concluded that long standing beliefs that the workforce consisted only of widows and orphans were misplaced and also that the ambivalent position of these women in their communities is further evidence of the fine gradations within the working class.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Royal Naval Dockyards, naval history, women workers, working class, Chatham, Plymouth
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
V Naval Science > V Naval Science (General)
Pre-2014 Departments: Greenwich Maritime Institute
Last Modified: 27 Mar 2017 09:32

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