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.
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.