Gender, rhetoric and regulation

Women's work in the Civil Service and the London County Council, 1900–55

By Helen Glew

Gender, rhetoric and regulation


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4663-2
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: February 2020
  • BIC Category: Cultural Studies, Social & cultural history, Gender studies, gender groups, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Humanities / Social & cultural history
  • Series: Gender in History


The Civil Service and the London County Council employed tens of thousands of women in Britain in the early twentieth century. As public employers these institutions influenced both each other and private organisations, thereby serving as a barometer or benchmark for the conditions of women's white-collar employment.

Drawing on a wide range of archival sources - including policy documents, trade union records, women's movement campaign literature and employees' personal testimony - this is the first book-length study of women's public service employment in this period. It examines three aspects of their working lives - inequality of pay, the marriage bar and inequality of opportunity - and demonstrates how far wider cultural assumptions about womanhood shaped policies towards women's employment and experiences. Scholars and students with interests in gender, British social and cultural history and labour history will find this an invaluable text.


'This book is highly valuable especially because work on this topic is long overdue. The GPO was the employer of one of the largest female workforces to be gathered together anywhere in the UK before the Second World War and to see how it grappled with and discussed contemporary issues of gender equality is fascinating. The rhetorical approach is vindicated. The research is meticulous, the book is well written and it will stand as the standard work on an important topic for a long time. I hope this absorbing book will stimulate further work in this thought-provoking and under-explored field.'
Quentin Outram, University of Leeds, Labour History Review, vol. 81 No. 2 (July 2016)

'This book is meticulously researched, bringing together a wide range of material from numerous archives. It is engaging and compelling, and will undoubtedly become required reading for students of twentieth-century British history, especially those examining the history of women and work in modern Britain.'
Mark J. Crowley, Wuhan University, The Journal of the Historical Association


1. Work for women? Challenges to the gendering of routine work in the LCC and the Civil Service, 1914-39
2. Trying to get equal opportunities: women in the higher grades of the LCC and the Civil Service in the first half of the twentieth century
3: 'Endless arguments about sex and salaries': the First World War, reconstruction and the campaigns for equal pay, 1914-24
4. 'As a matter of justice': the equal pay campaigns from 1924 to 1939
5 The slow road to victory: the equal pay campaigns from 1939 to 1954
6. Lark rise to spinsterhood? Women, the public service and marriage bar policy, 1914-46
7. Disabled husbands, deserted wives, working widows: the marriage bar in public servants' private lives until 1946


Helen Glew is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Westminster

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