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Hard working women built half of our modern world!


WAKE up, get dressed, wake the kids, dress them, get everybody breakfast, take the kids to school — then set off for your day job, 

Rebecca Lay reports for The U.K. Sun August 6th.





It’s not easy being a working mum, and to add insult to industry you then have to put up with society accusing you of being selfish.

People hanker after the image of the domestic goddess, raising talented, well-behaved children in a gleaming house worthy of the bread-winning husband who always returns from work to a glass of his favourite tipple and a delicious home-cooked meal.

But in a report out this week, Cambridge University researchers found the majority of people actually believe working mums HARM family life.

The study found that 20 years ago around one in four of us thought mums and their families were happier if she worked.

Now that figure has fallen to just one in seven.

But before busy mums start feeling guilty, it should be remembered that working women are far from unique to our times.

Women have ALWAYS worked outside the home, as a quick tour through history proves.

In the Middle Ages, women toiled beside their husbands and fathers in the fields.



In towns, women worked in a variety of occupations — as shopkeepers, spinners, bakers or “alewives” who brewed and sold beer.

Both married and unmarried women were expected to work for a living.

Often they would combine several jobs as they were then, like now of course, generally paid less than men.

Historian Dr Claire Jones, co-editor of Women’s History magazine, says: “Women worked alongside their husbands.

“The concept of leaving the home to work in an office was a long way off but that doesn’t mean they weren’t working.”

In Tudor Britain, the professions were closed to women, so doctors, lawyers and teachers were always male.

But women still worked — and very hard too.



Some wove cloth while others had roles as shoemakers, embroiderers, bakers and washerwomen.

A common job, of course, was domestic service. Other women were midwives and apothecaries.

In Stuart and Georgian Britain women were still regarded as socially and legally inferior — unable to vote and often not educated.

From the 1750s onwards, the early dawn of industry further opened working opportunities to women. More got jobs in the new factories, and occasionally on the railways.

Dr Jones says: “There is a record of a factory set up in the 1790s specifically in an area where there was a lot of female labour. Women were perfect for light industrial work. They had always worked before, but this introduced the idea of going to work away from the home.”

In the Victorian era, women were still treated politically as second-class citizens.

But, just as before, working class women still had to work to earn a crust, as most of us still do.

Social historian Hallie Rubenhold says: “Only the very wealthy could afford not to work, and they had servants to do all the domestic chores.

“So the idea of most women staying at home is a complete myth.”



As well as jobs in factories, the majority of working women found positions as maids or domestic staff during this period.

Many households had a servant — in 1891, two million servants were recorded in the census.

A smaller proportion of women worked as teachers or nurses and the idea of the female office worker also emerged.

Dr Jones said: “From about 1880 women increasingly went to work in offices and shops. It was very accepted. As a woman, staying at home signified wealth — it became something working class people aspired to but could not afford.”

In 1903, the Women’s Social and Political Union was created by women campaigning for the right to vote — suffragettes.

One of the co-founders was Emmeline Pankhurst, who believed women should use force to get their ideas across.

Women aged over 30 finally gained the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 women were given the same political rights as men.

No doubt the efforts of women working during the First World War was a major factor in this.



With many men fighting overseas, women filled their jobs at home. The number of women employed increased by almost a million in the years the Great War lasted.

Nearly 200,000 women were employed in Government departments. Around 250,000 worked on the land.

But the greatest increase in women workers was in engineering. Industries that had excluded women now welcomed them.

The pattern was set and in the Second World War all single women between the ages of 20 and 40 had to register for war work.

This was then extended to women in their 40s — and married women — who filled roles in agriculture, driving and civil defence.

By 1943, almost 90 per cent of single women and 80 per cent of married women were involved in war work.

There is no doubt, again, that this war effort was to change how women were viewed in Britain.

Yet when the war was won and the men came home, British people again went back to the ideal of the wife at home.

This led to the stereotype of the housewife waiting at the door for her husband’s return from work, clutching his pipe and slippers.

This 1950s view of domesticity is perhaps the one harked back to in the report from Cambridge University — the “old-fashioned view” that a woman’s place is in the home rather than the office.

But even then, it was hardly a true picture of what went on.

Statistics show that the number of women in active employment continued to RISE after the war.



Social revolution led to the idea of the perfect housewife falling out of favour in the 1970s, and by the 1980s the stereotype of the career woman was well on the way to showing that women could succeed in business too.

This continued to the 1990s, bringing us to the present day.

21st Century mums do their best to juggle work with bringing up kids — one in three mums with pre-school children work full-time.

Research for uSwitch.com this year found that couples say they need an income of nearly £32,000 before one of them can afford to stay at home — that’s £3,000 more than the average man’s wage.

As Hallie Rubenhold says: “People have this rose-tinted myth of the housewife who stays at home to look after the children.

“But if you look at history, this perfect domestic goddess has never once actually existed.”

It’s clear why women have always gone out to work — they have to.

And maybe some of them even dare to enjoy it just a little bit.


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