More images from Born to Work by Nick Hedges. What is so astonishing about these pictures is the way they are so vivid even if the world they inhabit is gone for ever. Nick manages to simultaneously capture the human dignity even as they work amidst a dehumanising process. There is sympathy, but no moralising.
I’ve picked out some of the images from the book which feature women. The images together with Huw Beynon’s text highlights a few things that we tend to forget. Women were not greatly served by heavy industry. Beynon points that in 1911 24 per cent of employed women worked in skilled jobs but by 1982 that had halved. In 1911, a higher proportion of women could be found in management than in 1982. Beynon says that the expansion of opportunity for women in the 1970s was highly selective. In a report from 1978, the Equal Opportunities Commission concluded that little progress would be made in sex equality. More information about Nick’s work can be found at Working Life.
There was widespread acceptance of job segregation in manual jobs and strong views on the suitability of certain jobs for men (those involving lifting or mechanical tasks) and for women (those involving dexterity or monotonous work). Department of Employment Gazette, July 1978.
‘I come to work to help my family to give my family like son, a better chance. So that we can have the extra things out of life: colour telly, run a car, save some money for my son when he gets older, he’s eight now. If he comes in and says, “Mum can I have so and so,” I like to give it to him.’
“The continuous emotional stress associated with these jobs presents an occupational risk for the emotional balance of women.” Workers Education Association.