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Labour united and divided from the 1830s to the present$
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Emmanuelle Avril and Yann Béliard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781526126320

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526126320.001.0001

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Domestic servants and the labour movement, 1870s–1914

Domestic servants and the labour movement, 1870s–1914

(p.83) 5 Domestic servants and the labour movement, 1870s–1914
Labour united and divided from the 1830s to the present

Anna Clark

Manchester University Press

Between the 1870s and 1914, there was no occupation with a higher proportion of women workers than domestic service. Female servants, however, faced the problem that many working-class people, including most socialists and trade unionists, did not see them as members of the working class. Refusing to take for granted the servants' proverbial deference and lack of class-consciousness, this chapter examines the numerous ways in which domestic servants tried to overcome the barrier separating them from the organised labour movement. Servants were not as isolated as one might think from other working-class people. Physical proximity with employers could actually fuel class resentment, and in comparing themselves to animals, slaves and machines, the servants signaled their commonality with the rest of the working class. The chapter also focuses on some of the servants' attempts to form unions of their own, in particular in Dundee and London. Through their obstinacy servants eventually gained inclusion in workers’ compensation and health insurance legislation between 1906 and 1913. This study of a long-neglected branch of the British proletariat suggests that the working class cannot be understood only in terms of industrial wage labourers and conventional trade union organisation.

Keywords:   Domestic servants, Women workers, Maternalism, Trade unions, Philanthropy, Deference

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