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Feminism and the Servant Problem
Class and Domestic Labour in the Women's Suffrage Movement


  • Date Published: July 2019
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108471336

£ 75.00

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About the Authors
  • In the early twentieth century, women fought for the right to professional employment and political influence outside the home. Yet if liberation from household 'drudgery' meant employing another woman to do it, where did this leave domestic servants? Both inspired and frustrated by the growing feminist movement, servants began forming their own trade unions, demanding better conditions and rights at work. Feminism and the Servant Problem is the first ever history of how these militant maids and their mistresses joined forces in the struggle for the vote but also clashed over competing class interests. Laura Schwartz uncovers a forgotten history of domestic worker organising and early feminist thinking on reproductive labour, and offers a new perspective on the class politics of the suffrage movement, challenging traditional notions of who made up the British working-class.

    • The first history of suffrage that looks at the contributions of domestic servants and that movement's debates on the 'servant problem'
    • Will appeal to readers interested in 'history from below', placing primary importance on servants' voices and perspectives
    • Brings a feminist perspective to labour history, offering a welcome alternative to labour movement histories that focus on men
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Exploitation is not about whether employers are nice or nasty, says Laura Schwartz. In this book it's about the labour relationship between women - feminist, suffragist and other - and their servants. A scintillating contribution to the new labour history of Britain in which voices from the women workers historians have most neglected, speak loud and clear.' Carolyn Steedman, University of Warwick

    'A wonderful, lucid account of the relationship between domestic service and women's suffrage in early twentieth-century Britain. Schwartz highlights the contradictions within the movement, and sensitively draws attention to long lasting structural inequalities. Using richly woven archival material, Schwartz offers a brilliant intervention and model on how one can write a feminist history of class-based struggle that highlights the voices and perspectives of domestic workers. A must-read.' Sumita Mukherjee, University of Bristol

    'Laura Schwartz has given us a rich account of the social and everyday history of paid for domestic labour in early twentieth century Britain. Feminism and the Servant Problem is an exciting new breed of history that spans the social, cultural, intellectual, emotional, and political. Written with panache, this history offers a fascinating new angle on suffrage feminism.' Lucy Delap, Murray Edwards College, Cambridge

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108471336
    • length: 243 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 159 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.54kg
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    Introduction. Whose problem was the 'servant problem'?
    1. The 'servant problem' and the suffrage home
    2. Servants in the suffrage movement
    3. The housework problem
    4. Domestic labour and the feminist work ethic
    5. The domestic workers' union of Great Britain and Ireland
    6. Servants and co-operative housekeeping

  • Author

    Laura Schwartz, University of Warwick
    Laura Schwartz is Associate Professor of Modern British History at the University of Warwick. She has published widely on the history of British feminism, and is the author of A Serious Endeavour: Gender Education and Community at St Hugh's, 1886–2011 (2011) and Infidel Feminism: Secularism, Religion and Women's Emancipation, England 1830–1914 (2013).

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