Interpreting sweating and women's paid work at home

Blackburn, Sheila
December 1991
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Winter91, Vol. 56 Issue 3, p10
Academic Journal
The article focuses on two main themes: to locate the causes of sweating, and to establish why, by the late nineteenth century, sweating became virtually synonymous with female homeworkers. Throughout the paper it was emphasized that the conclusions were only tentative. The proposals were very much those of a working paper. The article examined the traditional depiction of sweating as essentially concerning women's paid work in the home. It rejected the notion that, fundamentally, sweating was; at the turn of the century and since then, a women's issue. It suggested that the traditional view emerged in the late nineteenth century as a result of an overlapping between the rallying cries of well-intentioned reformers and rationalisations, by some employers and the well-to-do, of the poor into convenient categories. Reformers employed the tactic of concentrating on vulnerable women; and growing numbers in the ranks of employers and the establishment found it convenient to divide workers into categories like sweated female workers who needed protection, and casual male workers whose poverty could be depicted as being self-induced.


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