Dancing and Days Out: The Role of Social Events in British Women's Trade Unionism in the Early Twentieth Century

Hunt, Cathy
August 2011
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Aug2011, Vol. 76 Issue 2, p104
Academic Journal
In early twentieth-century Britain, trade unions seeking to recruit women workers to their ranks were aware of the important role that social events could play in the campaign to attract and retain members. This study examines the attempts made by two general unions, the all-female National Federation of Women Workers and the mixed-sex Workers’ Union to encourage women’s participation in trade unionism through programmes of events that might appeal to all ages and to married as well as single women. The challenge for organizers lay in ensuring that activities not only united local branches but that they deepened the roots of trade unionism amongst those women who had as yet gained little experience of the labour movement. The article considers the two unions’ approaches to the ‘social’ both before and during the First World War and questions the extent to which organizers were able to use them to encourage long-lasting union solidarity. As women sought to incorporate trade unionism into their lives, investigation into the organization and the nature of social events informs understanding of the gendered nature of work and leisure as well as of the labour movement in this period.


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