Women, work and value in Europe, 1945-2015

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol


This research network explores the ways in which women's work has been valued in Europe since 1945. It brings together academics, members of the public, interest groups and policy makers to discuss the relevance of past experiences of work for the challenges facing today's society. Through a series of four workshops, participants from across Europe and the US will examine the history of women's work, both paid and unpaid, and the ways in which it has been represented and valued.

The outcomes of the network will include an international network of researchers, an online resource, two public events, a theme issue of an interdisciplinary journal, and pathways to future research collaborations.

On the one hand, in the past two decades, historians of Europe have focused more on consumption and leisure than labour and employment. There is also a dearth of work on the history of women in postwar Europe, despite the dramatic changes in female employment during this period. For social scientists, on the other hand, women and work have remained central concerns. This network will promote interdisciplinary dialogue, combining the conceptual frameworks of the social sciences with historical contexualisation, as well as the interpretative insights of cultural studies.

The first workshop (to be held in Bristol) takes these varying disciplinary perspectives as its starting point. Position papers from scholars in cultural studies, history, sociology, geography, and philosophy will lay out the parameters of the study of work and value in each field. The second workshop (Florence) turns to subjective valuations of work, and the ways in which they affect economic outcomes. The third workshop (Budapest) examines the interactions of politics and women's work, from feminist critiques of work, through trade union activism, to legislation for equal pay. The final workshop (Glasgow) will bring together contributors to the themed journal issue for a focused discussion of their papers.

Engagement is a core part of the network. The public events in Glasgow and Bristol will speak to interested members of the public, as well as activists and interest groups, drawing on our established connections with the Bristol Festival of Ideas and the Glasgow Women's Library. An undergraduate intern will be responsible for communicating the outcomes of each workshop, and will be encouraged to use new media, video, and other innovative forms of documentation. The Bristol event will be recorded for podcasting on our website. In this way, we plan to engage an audience much larger than those who can be present at the events.

The contemporary relevance of this topic presents an exciting opportunity for dialogue with interest groups and policy makers. The Glasgow public event will include representatives from the TUC, Close The Gap, and the Fawcett Society. We will also use existing networks to develop a History and Policy briefing paper to disseminate the main findings of the network.

Planned Impact

1. The outputs of this project will be made available to the general public (local, national, and international) in two ways.

Firstly, through free public events, which will be held to coincide with the first and final workshops of the series. The first event, to be held in Bristol, will be a panel discussion on 'Work, Women, and Activism', bringing together a number of pioneering activists from the 1970s: Miriam Glucksmann (sociologist and author of Women On The Line), Selma James (Wages for Housework Campaign) and Sally Groves (trade union activist and organizer of an equal pay strike). This event will form part of the Past Matters festival of history, and the Bristol Festival of Ideas. It will also be made available as a podcast. The second event, in Glasgow, will focus on the gendered nature of care work in the UK. Exchange with practitioners will be central to this event, which will build on Glasgow University's established links with interest groups such as Close The Gap, and the TUC, as well as involving the Fawcett Society, journalists, and representatives of business organizations. Ultimately, the aim is to establish avenues for an effective intervention in public debate, one that allows scholars and civil society actors to change the way we think and talk about women's work.

Secondly, the findings of our workshops will be disseminated via our website and social media. For each of the workshops, a student intern will be tasked with communicating the academic and public discussions in a lively and accessible way. We will use existing contacts at BBC Radio 4 and Radio 3 to seek national broadcast media coverage for our workshops.

2. Policy makers and voluntary sector organisations concerned with issues of work.
The findings of our network are likely to have implications for policy relating to women's work, and indeed work more generally. We will explore the possibility of disseminating our findings in a suitable format e.g. a History and Policy working paper. We will also work with the Fawcett Society, one of the key UK organisations concerned with women and work. Dr. Helen Mott, the co-ordinator of the Bristol Fawcett Society, will chair the Bristol public event.

3. The Bristol Festival of Ideas
Building on the University of Bristol's existing relationship with the Festival (an Arts Council England national portfolio organisation), the panel discussion on 'Women, Work and Activism' will form a part of the Festival's programme of events for Spring 2014.

4. Feminist history groups and archives
Trustees of the Feminist Archive South spoke at our January 2012 scoping workshop, and the Glasgow Women's Library will co-host a public engagement event in 2015, to coincide with the final workshop. Our workshops and public events, as well as our website, will highlight their collections to new audiences and users. Members of the Tobacco Women community history project (Bristol), who are working on an exhibition on the women of the Wills Tobacco Factory in South Bristol, will present their project at workshop 1. They will benefit from academic feedback, and the opportunity to build their networks.

5. Undergraduate and Masters students at Bristol and Glasgow Universities:
Students on these degrees will have the opportunity to apply for four paid public engagement internships. Interns will be asked to attend the workshop, and design an innovative and accessible way of communicating its key findings (e.g. video, interview, podcast, online resource, schools workshop etc.). Questions of audience and evaluation will be a central part of their projects. This will dovetail with students' work on units such as 'Themes in Public History' and 'The Public Role of the Humanities'. As well as allowing students to develop key communication and engagement skills, these internships offer students the opportunity take part in dialogue with the public and with professional stakeholders.


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Bracke M (2019) Women, Work and Value in Post-War Europe: Introduction in Contemporary European History

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McLellan J (2020) From the Political to the Personal: Work and Class in 1970s British Feminist Art in Twentieth Century British History

Description This network brought together over 40 researchers from 15 countries, from a range of disciplines including literature, film and cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, economics, history, geography, ethnography, social work, and feminist and women's studies. All were united by a focus on women's experience, and on how women's work is valued. The result is a groundbreaking examination of work that points to significant shared experiences across national boundaries and between East and West Europe. It testifies to the profound breaks that neoliberalism has made with a postwar past characterized by strong welfare states on either side of the 'iron curtain' and this despite the evident shortcomings of these post-war welfare regimes, especially seen from a feminist perspective. This is particularly true of the contributions on socialist and post-socialist states, which reveal the surprising extent to which the transformation of women's work after 1989 was influenced not only by external processes of globalization but by longer-term internal debates about the value of women's paid employment originating in the socialist period. Thus our contributors also highlight important ways in which neoliberal governments and employers have drawn on older methods of organizing and valuing work. Perhaps most prominently, they have done this by the devaluing of women's paid work as both temporary and unskilled.

Selected papers from the workshops are currently under review at Feminist Review as a special issue, with a substantial introduction by the network steering committee. This publication promises to be a significant interdisciplinary intervention into debates about the past and future of work.
Exploitation Route Members of the network are already pursuing these theme in projects that ally closely to the work of the network. It is to be hoped that the publication of the Feminist Review special issue will spark debate, both inside and outside academia.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com/
Description Our outward-facing work in this area focused in three main areas. We were fortunate to be supported by four paid undergraduate interns who were part of the project teams in Bristol and Glasgow (Graihagh Goode, Sarah Brodie, Kati Taylor and Kate Whitaker). 1. We set up a project blog (https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com/), and commissioned academic participants in the workshops to write short, engaging blogposts about their research and its contemporary relevance. One result of this was a contribution to The Conversation during the 2015 Women's World Cup (https://theconversation.com/how-latin-america-dropped-the-ball-at-the-womens-world-cup-43516). 2. We ran a workshop with The Meriton, a school for teenage parents. At this workshop, students were encouraged to reflect on the value of their work as parents and to discuss how this might be measured and/or compensated. A full account of the workshop is here: https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/one-thing-i-learnt-in-this-workshop/ 3. Finally, a workshop on the care economy at the University of Glasgow brought together academics with representatives from NGOs to talk about current challenges and what light historical research might shed on them. A report of the workshop can be found here: https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com/2016/05/05/history-is-in-the-past-the-social-relevance-of-historical-research/
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

Description Bristol City Council 
Organisation Bristol City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution The University of Bristol facilitated the Mapping LGBT+ project, which resulted in a LGBT life layer on Bristol City Council's website as well as new accessions to Bristol Record Office's collections.
Collaborator Contribution Peter Insole from the Planning Department enabled the creation of the LGBT life layer, and will continue to moderate submissions to this layer on an ongoing basis. Julian Warren from Bristol Record Office facilitated several workshops on archival research for Outstories volunteers.
Impact LGBT Life layer on Know Your Bristol website. New accessions to Bristol Record office.
Start Year 2014
Description Article for The Conversation 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This article was co-authored with Matthew Brown from the Sport and Translation project, to coincide with the Women's World Cup in Canada. It discussed the ways in which women's football is undervalued, the historical context, and potential steps to rectify this situation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://theconversation.com/how-latin-america-dropped-the-ball-at-the-womens-world-cup-43516
Description Creation of Wordpress blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A public engagement intern on the project, Graihagh Goode, set up an engagement blog. Contributions were solicited both from participants in the academic workshops, and from those working in related areas. We also arranged a series of posts to coincide with the Women's World Cup - a joint event with the Sport in Translation project at the University of Bristol.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
URL https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com
Description History and Policy event (Glasgow) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This workshop on 'Gender, Work, and the Care Economy: Historical Perspectives, Contemporary Challenges' brought together academics with representatives from three relevant third sector organisations, Close the Gap, Work/Care/Share and Engender. Participants discussed the key challenges in the UK's care economy regime today, from a gender equality perspective, and the ways in which historians might shed light on the issues faced by the third sector.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
Description Panel discussion at Watershed, Bristol, March 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Excellent discussion after the panel discussion with many questions. A spontaneous collection was made for the representatives of Justice For Domestic Workers.

Audience members spoke very highly of the event and how impressed they were by the speakers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://www.bristol.ac.uk/public-engagement/events/2014/131.html
Description Student blog on Bristol history department website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog got a good deal of interest on social media.

Successful engagement of undergraduate students in research process.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity
URL http://historiansatbristol.blogs.ilrt.org/archives/94
Description Talk at History and Policy event, November 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The event was used to generate a new version of the Charter.

Media interest, including article in Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/nov/10/working-womens-charter-forty-years-still-struggling
New charter: http://www.historyandpolicy.org/img/news/uploads/new_working_women_charter_final.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.historyandpolicy.org/news/article/the-working-womens-charter-40-years-on
Description Women's World Cup Twitterchat 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In collaboration with the research group 'Sport in Translation', we ran a Twitterchat on "How To Watch The Women's World Cup". In just over an hour, we had over 150 posts on the hashtag (collected in the Storify in the link below).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://storify.com/josiemclellan/how-to-watch-the-women-s-world-cup
Description Workshop with the Meriton School 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This workshop was designed and run by Sarah Brodie, a public engagement intern on the project. Pupils from the Meriton School, a specialist school for teenage parents, attended an afternoon at the University of Bristol. There was a lively discussion on the gendered nature of work, whether parents should be paid for looking after their children, and if so, what the rate should be.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://womenworkvalue2015.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/one-thing-i-learnt-in-this-workshop/