What role did the women play in the Industrial Revolution?
Women played a role in the Industrial Revolution. They mainly served as workers and often worked in the textile industries and in piecework shops. Some women also worked in the coal mines. At times, factory owners preferred to hire women. They could pay women less than men, and some jobs were viewed as jobs that women should do, such as sewing clothes. They were also less likely to argue and often didn’t object to doing unskilled work. By 1840, ten percent of women worked outside of the home. By 1850, that number increased to 15 percent of women working outside of the home.
While working did help some women improve their financial situation and way of life, for most women, working in the factories was a very difficult experience. They often worked twelve to eighteen hour days with only one hour for a break. They were harshly punished if they objected to these conditions. Sometimes, women faced sexual harassment. In some cases, women were permanently disabled by the work they did. Sometimes, they went insane or died from the stress they faced. Eventually, some women began to organize labor unions, which addressed their concerns.
Conditions for all during the Industrial Revolution, including women and children were despicable. In Wales, for instance, women went into the coal mines with chains between their legs and a belt around their waists in their job as "drawers," a task of pulling up the loaded coal coarves. Records tell of one young girl forced to sit in area only two feet high all day as she chiseled away at the coal.
In America women were employed in the such places as match factories, or textile mills, working long hours for poor wages. Often they worked only days after giving birth, having to leave the children in the care of older relatives. Because of the long hours and poor conditions, these women often succumbed to tuberculosis and white lung disease from breathing in the cotton fluffs floating around in the air. Children, too, worked going in and out of the machines where only someone small could reach. They would, for example, untangle thread on spinning machines.
The main role of women in the Industrial Revolution was that of workers. Many factories employed female workers. In fact, in some kinds of factories, almost all of the workers were women. In those factories, only the supervisors would be men.
The reason for this was mainly that factory owners and managers could hire women at lower wages than men would accept. This was a good deal for the owners. Women were also preferred to some extent because men did not really want to do this sort of work -- it made them feel more dependent and bossed-around than they wanted to be.
As the industrial revolution progressed the number of women in the work force grew rapidly. Usually from lower class or immigrant backgrounds many women worked in the textile factories, however some worked as domestics (house maids) By the early 20th century new technology led to better machinery and as a result some of the women who had to work were able to move into a 'new' field...clerical work.