In this rich book, Linda McDowell writes an important history of the changing nature of work in Britain over the last 60 years through the experience and eyes of immigrant women. There are not many books that bring together the trials, hopes and achievements of various generations of working women from East Europe, the Caribbean and East Africa, and fewer still that rethink British labour market history on the basis of the evidence gathered. A very fine piece of scholarship.
Ash Amin, University of Cambridge
An insightful and well–researched study of post second world war women s migration into Britain, exploring the interplay between their changing self–understanding, patterns of work and gender identity. The unusual and original angle of analysis yields many a novel conclusion and makes the book indispensable.
Bhikku Parekh, University of Westminster and House of Lords
Full of unique and compelling insights into the working lives of migrant women in the UK, this book explores the changing nature of women s employment in post–war Britain. Seen through the eyes of those arriving and seeking work since 1945, the author s analysis of working patterns is based on many hours of interviews with female textile workers, hospital domestics, nurses, automotive workers, photo print packers, bankers, doctors, cleaners, nannies and agricultural workers.
The volume uses these first–hand accounts to track social changes in the UK up to 2007, combining theory and analysis of empirical data to provide a cogent analysis of the characteristics of the labour market in contemporary Britain. Linda McDowell sets the vivid details of women s lives in the context of far–reaching changes in the country s employment landscape and immigrant regulatory framework since World War II. Deploying fresh information gleaned from oral history accumulated over two decades of research, the book is a fascinating survey of the origins of Britain s ethnically diverse population that fuses sociological and geographical analysis to demonstrate how migrant women are viewed by society as suitable workers for particular types of jobs.
Series Editors Preface x
Preface: Leaving Home and Looking for Work xi
Part One Migration and Mobilities 1
1 Leaving Home: Migration and Working Lives 3
2 Gendering Labour Geographies and Histories 19
3 The Transformation of Britain 51
Part Two Out to Work: Embodied Genealogies 69
4 Post–war Reconstruction, 1945 1951 71
5 Coming Home: The Heart of Empire, 1948 1968 95
6 Years of Struggle, 1968 1979 128
7 Privilege and Inequality, 1979 1997 157
8 Back to the Future: Diversity and Precarious Labour, 1997 2007 184
9 Full Circle, 1945 2007 213
Appendix: Post–war Legislation 253
It remains that Working Lives is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement and will remain for the foreseeable future a key text for anyone interested in the history of migrant women and migrants more generally in post–war Britain. (Oral History, 1 May 2015)
In what is a very refreshing contrast to many of the more recent accounts of immaterial labor, which tend to focus on the highly skilled and well–paid sectors of the labor market and, to a great extent, on an undifferentiated image of the postindustrial worker, McDowell foregrounds the actual laboring bodies of migrant women, marked as they are by gender, skin color, nationality, class, ethnicity, and other signs of difference. (Economic Geography, 1 January 2015)
Recommended. Upper–division undergraduates and above. (Choice, 1 February 2014)
Review appeared in Times Higher Education – 10 October 2013
McDowell provides intriguing, important insights into the female immigrant experience, drawing selectively on interviews with sections of this complex shifting population. It is too diverse an experience to survey comprehensively in a short book, but it whets my appetite for a fuller version that draws on all of the interviews she conducted. (Times Higher Education, 10 October 2013)