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Women at Work

A selection of images of women employed in a range of different jobs.

Check out our Teaching Activity How did WWI change the role of women in Britain?



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Land Army Girls, East Devon
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Land Army Girls, East Devon

Land Army girls wearing white overalls and black armbands gather kindling with a horse and cart. Possibly taken in Luppitt or Combe Raleigh parishes.

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War workers at the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey, Essex
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

War workers at the Royal Gunpowder Factory, Waltham Abbey, Essex

Two female workers at the Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey during World War I pose for a photograph. They wear the safety clothing supplied by the factory, and the woman on the right (Miss Kiddy) wears a triangular war workers badge.

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Textile Warehouse, Manchester
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Textile Warehouse, Manchester

The picture shows textiles being packed at the turn of the century. Banks of windows and light coloured walls helped to keep the factory illuminated. The work here is being undertaken exclusively by women.

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Waring and Gillow, Lancaster, Lancashire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Waring and Gillow, Lancaster, Lancashire

Women were often employed to perform specific tasks. While men worked in the factory, women were often employed to undertake jobs such as embroidery and upholstery manufacture. This picture was taken at a time when the Women's Rights movement was starting to gain momentum, while many men were at the front-line.

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Cunard Shell Works, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Merseyside
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Cunard Shell Works, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Merseyside

With many men sent to fight in the War, companies came to rely on women to keep industry running between 1914 and 1918. Here an almost exclusively female workforce prepare shells for the war effort.

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Trollope and Colls Ltd, Pleasant Works, Liverpool, Merseyside
Copyright Crown copyright.NMR

Trollope and Colls Ltd, Pleasant Works, Liverpool, Merseyside

During World War I employers had to rethink the jobs given to women. Even so they were often given traditionally feminine roles, like these women sewing the fabric onto aircraft wings. Elsewhere in this factory, however, women were beginning to work alongside men in jobs like carpentry.

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Two servants, Byfield, Northamptonshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Two servants, Byfield, Northamptonshire

Before the liberating 1960s a career for many women meant making the choice between secretarial work, healthcare or service. These two maids were photographed in a house in Byfield, Northamptonshire, sometime between 1896 and 1920.

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Frank Cooper's Works, Victoria Buildings, Park End Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Frank Cooper's Works, Victoria Buildings, Park End Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Interior showing women and girls at work. The majority are seated at tables preparing fruit. Others are standing at a wooden shelf to one side sieving fruit. In the foreground are tubs of apples awaiting preparation.

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War work at Waring and Gillow, Hammersmith, London
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

War work at Waring and Gillow, Hammersmith, London

Waring & Gillow's furniture factory was converted to War work. Here markings are painted onto wing sections of military aircraft. Note that the workforce consists of women and of young men below the age of military service.

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Post lady, Kerrier, Cornwall
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Post lady, Kerrier, Cornwall

This woman, working as a post lady, is emptying a post box at an unidentified location in Kerrier, Cornwall. She is wearing a dress and coat with a uniform cap. Although it was relatively unusual for women to hold positions such as this at the time, it was not unknown. Many women were starting to campaign for equality through movements such as the suffragettes. Women over 21 achieved the vote in 1928, 27 years after this picture was taken.

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Cunard Shell Works, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Merseyside
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Cunard Shell Works, Rimrose Road, Bootle, Merseyside

Shell heads of various sizes are being processed in this picture. Despite the shortage of male labour during the War, men were still often used as managers and skilled workers, although many women did become supervisors and checkers.

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Packing fish, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Packing fish, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

A group of middle class people watch from the harbour wall as fish are gutted and packed into barrels. This work seems to be performed exclusively by women although the supervisor is a man. Herring were gutted and packed by teams of migrant workers, mostly Scottish fisher girls. The tourists are wearing very different clothes from the workers. The workers are wearing clogs on their feet. Clogs were hardwearing and good protection from water and mud. This photograph was taken at the old pier, Scarborough

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Early Blanket Factory, Witney, Oxfordshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Early Blanket Factory, Witney, Oxfordshire

Two women working at large power looms in the blanket mill, Wintey's largest industry.

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Somerville College, Woodstock Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Somerville College, Woodstock Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Agnes Maitland, the second Principal of Somerville College, seated at the desk in her study.

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Agricultural workers, Hellidon, Northamptonshire
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Agricultural workers, Hellidon, Northamptonshire

Agricultural labourers load a cart with hay at harvest time. Judging by the shadows there is little sunshine; even so it is hard work and the man on the cart is having a well-deserved swig of cider. Note that men, women and children are all helping.

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Winding Yarn, Wellington Mills, Elland, West Yorkshire
Copyright George Lumb Spinners Ltd

Winding Yarn, Wellington Mills, Elland, West Yorkshire

These women are winding yarn onto bobbins for use on machines in the next stage of the spinning process. Even in the 1930s, when this picture was probably taken, unskilled jobs like this were often performed by women; men having the skilled (and higher paid) positions.

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Unilever House, Victoria Embankment, London
Reproduced by permission of English Heritage.NMR

Unilever House, Victoria Embankment, London

The headquarters for the Unilever Group was built in 1930-31 to a design by J Lomax-Simpson with Burnet, Tait and Lorne. Noted for its monumental facade with statues by Sir William Reid Dick, the reliefs on the lifts are by Eric Gill. The building was altered between 1980 and 1996. This picture from the 1930s shows the accounts department.

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Picking tulips near Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire
Copyright English Heritage.NMR

Picking tulips near Fulney, Spalding, Lincolnshire

The tulip was introduced into Europe in the 16th century from Turkey and takes its name from the French word for turban. Here two women remove the flower heads manually in order to promote bulb development.

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Coal worker, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire
Crown copyright.NMR

Coal worker, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

For some people traditional ways of life continue into the present. This woman shovels coal much as generations before have.



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