First World War Project
The Statistics behind Employment of Women before (1911 Census) and during the 1st World War (1922 HMSO)
Those unfamiliar with occupations before World War 1 and the distribution between men and women may find the following listings of interest. This summary material draws on the Official Report on the 1911 Census which takes a view over the period - 1881 to 1911. The question of how married women were reported does suggest some caution when interpreting the data - for example, "housekeeper" was often the wife and "servant" was sometimes a reference to children at home! So vague were some census returns that women often fell under a general heading of "not elsewhere listed" - this category exceeded 12 million in 1911, of which 9.6 million were women!! That is very roughly 60% of women were not identified with a defined occupation.
WAR-TIME OCCUPATIONS AND THE ROLES OF WOMEN
- This collection of statistics is inspired by the story of Alice Post, of Teynham and Greenstreet, who died from poisoning in the manufacture of T.N.T. in January 1916.
- Adoption of T.N.T.: Although TNT was well known to British industry, it was only 'adopted' by the British military immediately before WW1 – consequent rapid expansion of TNT production required workers to operate with less familiar chemicals, processes, adapted equipment and environments.
- Real change for women? The balance between women and men after the war remained largely equal to the pre-war position. Larger trends are better understood over longer periods than the exceptional conditions of war. It is no surprise that the hotly debated topic of the economic contribution of women to our society from 1918 picked up where it left off in 1914/15.
- Dilution of Labour: 1915 did see significant relaxation of employment conditions and concentration of central control of the means of production under the newly created Ministry of Munitions. Trade Unions and Employers eventually acknowledged the importance of "dilution of labour" to achieve higher recruitment flows of women to release men to serve overseas. "Dilution of Labour" refers to the (temporary) reduction of 'entry conditions' to an occupation or profession, thereby allowing for massively accelerated expansion of munitions production while, at the same time, allowing unskilled labour into skilled and semi-skilled occupations previously reserved for males. The clear intention in some minds was that women would make way for the return of men to their previous employment.
1911 Census Report
Core Statistics used here are those revealed in the Report on the 1911 Census (1917), supplemented by war-time reports on employment of women and children and the recruitment of men into serving in defence of their country.
Comparative data: That Report included comparative data spanning the period 1881 to 1911 to illustrate trends in occupations and the number of those active or retired in those occupations.
Aged 10 years and Upwards: The 'working age' population of England and Wales:
(a) Total Occupied and Unoccupied above 10 years of age: England and Wales
(48% of total)
(52% of total)
(b) Total Retired or Unoccupied above 10 years of age: England and Wales
(18% of total)
(82% of total)
(c) Total Engaged in Occupations above 10 years of age: England and Wales
(70% of total)
(30% of total)
The Balance of Employment (1881 to 1911): Men vs Women
As women's education improved, they were able to make headway into more clerical positions, but the professions and supervisory roles were often barred to them.
I - GENERAL OR LOCAL GOVERNMENT OF THE COUNTRY
"National" included civil servants and postal workers where the proportion of women employed increased from 7% (1881) to 15.5% (1911).
"Local" included police (exclusively male; but women police were appointed in 1916 inside munitions factories to maintain discipline and supervision) and Poor Law, Municipal, Parish and other Local or County Officers where women increased their share from 14% to 26% over the same period.
Early in the War, there were public calls for women to be allowed to take on more clerical jobs to release men to serve on the Front.
II - DEFENCE OF THE COUNTRY – Army, Navy and Marines at home and abroad - Entirely men.
III - PROFESSIONAL OCCUPATIONS AND THE SUBORDINATE SERVICES
This Class is broadly equal in the numbers of men and women.
However, within this Class, women formed vanishingly small numbers of:
- clergymen (only 3 in number);
- barristers and Solicitors (nil);
- law clerks (6% in 1911; 1% in 1901);
- physicians, surgeons and Registered Practitioners (2%).
Women were found in greater numbers in subordinate occupations such as:
- Midwives, sick nurses, invalid attendants and subordinate Medical Service (94%);
- Schoolmasters, teachers, professors and lecturers (73% - mostly teachers in elementary schools); and
- Others (creative arts; engineers, surveyors, musicians and singers etc) – between 25% and 33%.
IV - DOMESTIC OFFICES OR SERVICES (excluding Domestic Outdoor Service and "day girls & day servants").
This Class is strongly represented by women (1881 – 95%; 1911 – 91.5%) especially in the roles:
- Domestic Indoor Service (96%);
- Hospital and Institution (not Poor Law) and Benevolent Society Service (70.5%);
- Charwomen (100%);
- Laundry Workers: Washers, Ironers, Manglers, etc (93% - down from 98% in 1881); and
- Others (34% - down from 41% in 1881).
V - COMMERCIAL OCCUPATIONS
This Class is one in which women were significantly outnumbered, but their numbers increased over the span of years from 3% in 1881 to 16% in 1911. The sub-orders were:
- Merchants, Agents, and Accountants, including salesmen, buyers (commodity undefined), commercial travellers, auctioneers, &c. (2.5% to 3.5%);
- Commercial or Business Clerks (1881 – 3%; 1911 – 24.5%) – an area of significant change for women;
- Dealers in Money (2%); and
- Insurance (5%).
Grouping together all clerks in this Class, no fewer than 243,405 (186,643 males and 50,768 females) out of a total of 563,811 (442,247 males and 121,564 females) were enumerated in London and the adjoining counties. The total number of clerks cannot be stated with any precision, because in many instances it is impossible to differentiate them from other workers, especially administrative officials.
VI - CONVEYANCE OF MEN, GOODS, AND MESSAGES
This Class was very much a male domain except in telegraphy and telephony.
On railways (more than 99% males) – on roads (more than 99% males) – on seas rivers and canals – in docks, harbours, &c. (more than 99% males) – In Storage, Porterage, and Messages (small headway by women – 1881 = 1%, 1911 = 4%). Others (e.g. Post Office Telegraphists & Telephone Operators were increasingly represented by women – 1881 = 12%; 1911 = 22%).
VII - AGRICULTURE
Including Domestic Gardeners, but excluding Farmers. Daughters and other Female Relatives returned as assisting in the work of the Farm. Male relatives of farmers and graziers were recorded as a distinct category.
By excluding female relatives from this category, those working on Farms, Woods, and Gardens are almost entirely males. Between 1901 and 1911, of those in the broad category of Farmers and Graziers in their own right, only about 9% were women. There were no significant changes in this balance between men and women.
VIII - FISHING
In 1881 all fishermen who were present in England and Wales at the date of the Census, and all those who came into port during the succeeding 14 days were included under this heading; at all later Censuses only those who were present on Census night or came into port the next day were included. Across this whole period, women formed less than 1% of the total.
IX - IN AND ABOUT, AND WORKING AND DEALING IN THE PRODUCTS OF, MINES AND QUARRIES
Fewer than 1% of workers in this category were women. This category included:
- Coal and Shale Mine Workers (excluding Owners, Agents, Managers, and mine Services);
- Ironstone Miners;
- Stone, Slate – Quarriers, Cutters and Dressers;
- Other associated occupations
X - METALS, MACHINES, IMPLEMENTS, AND CONVEYANCES
Excluding Lock, Key and Gas Fittings Makers. This category shows only a very small number of women employed.
The emerging markets, manufacture and retail of Cycles and Motors showed a corresponding increase in engagement by women. Early in their development, cycles and cars were very expensive – however, the import of American cycles reduced the price, but still largely beyond the means of ordinary labourers. In England and Wales this joint category showed: 1901 – 1,072 employees, 1% of whom were women; 1911 – 88,542 employees, 8% of whom were women. By way of comparison, Coach, Carriage, Wagon – Makers; Wheelwrights, etc was 99% male even while the total number employed in this sector in 1901 (62,236) increased to 1911 (93,618).
Interestingly, "Dealers" across this whole sector showed a marked increase in the share of women employed. The census summary tables don't explain this relationship between the technologies/industries and their dealership – were they clerks (an area where women were generally increasing their representation)?
Dealers who were women, in 1881, amounted to 5.6% (out of 16,120 total) rising to 12%, in 1911 (out of the total of 48,789).
XI - PRECIOUS METALS, JEWELS, WATCHES, INSTRUMENTS, AND GAMES (including Electrical Apparatus and Electricity Supply)
12% to 14% of the total under this heading were women. Within that figure women had an increasing representation (13% 1881 to 20% 1911) in "Workers and Dealers in Watches, Clocks, Precious Metals and Jewellery" and (13% 1881 to 19% 1911) in "Other" related occupations (no detail). But the area of greatest growth was in areas of innovation surrounding electricity, "Electrical Apparatus Makers and Electricity Supply" was a male preserve – that sector grew from 2,252 in 1881 to 108,891 in 1911.
XII - BUILDING AND WORKS OF CONSTRUCTION - Including Lock, Key, and Gas Fittings Makers; Platelayers, Gangers, Packers, and Railway Labourers. Main sectors comprising Carpenters, Joiners, Bricklayers, Masons, Plasterers, Paper hangers, Painters, Decorators, and Glaziers, together with their labourers. Almost entirely the preserve of males.
XIII - WOOD, FURNITURE, FITTINGS, AND DECORATIONS – Including wood and Bark.
10% of those working in Furniture, fittings, and decorations were women (not changing over time).
14% of those working in Wood and Bark were women (not changing over time).
XIV - BRICK, CEMENT, POTTERY, AND GLASS
- locally to our and neighbouring Parishes, Bricks (between Rainham and Faversham) and Cement (Conyer) were significant employers.
While 19%-22% of this whole sector was female, it is in the sub-category of "Earthenware, China, Porcelain – Manufacture" that women were mostly represented (38% to 42%). Brickmaking, tiles and terracotta, together with Glass manufacture were male dominated (90-95% were male).
XV - CHEMICALS, OIL, GREASE, SOAP, RESIN, &c. - Including Celluloid Makers and Workers, also Elastic Web Manufacture, except for Scotland.
Employment in this sector grew significantly from 1881 (70,055) to 1911 (177,777). At the same time, women took an increasing share of jobs, moving from 11% to 23%. Following the pattern in other manufacturing processes, women would have taken on the more repetitive and 'low value' jobs.
XVI - SKINS, LEATHER, HAIR, AND FEATHERS
Women employed in this sector followed much the same pattern as in the preceding (XV) manufacturing sector - although their share was higher here – 19% (1881) to 26.5% (1911).
XVII - PAPER, PRINTS, BOOKS, AND STATIONERY - Including Circular and Envelope Addressers; Advertising, Bill Posting Agents, and Bill Posters. This was a large sector that employed 158,194 (1881) to 348,027 (1911). Women employed in this sector made up 26% (1881) to 35% (1911) f the total. However, the most significant sub-sector for women by a large margin was that of "stationers; Paper Box, Paper Bag – Makers; Stationery Manufacture; Bookbinders" – where 60% of the workers were women in 1911; growing from 55% in 1881. Paper manufacture, strainers, printers, and Lithographers were male dominated in the main; although women's share increased over the period from 4% to 16% by 1911.
XVIII - TEXTILE FABRICS - ExcludIng Elastic Web manufacture
This was a very large economic sector in England and Wales that stood at 1,313,788 employees in 1911. Women workers outnumbered men across the whole sector with one exception in the area of bleaching, printing, and dyeing where the balance was 69% male:31% female.
XIX - WORKERS AND DEALERS IN DRESS (including "Machinists, Machine Workers, undefined" for Females only. Employing a total of 1,195,371 (1911) of which 63% were women – a proportion of which didn't change between 1881 and 1911.
XX - FOOD, TOBACCO, DRINK, AND LODGING – This sector doubled in size between 1881(711,415) and 1911 (1,388,248). At the same time, women represented in the sector grew from 23% to 34%. The growth in delivery of these services and consumer products was broadly in step with economic and industrial development before the war as well as increasing mobility in populations. The sector comprised: working and dealing in food; tobacco; makers of spirituous drinks; Inn, hotel – keepers; publicans; wine and spirit merchants, agents; beer bottlers; cellarmen; barmen; waiters (not Domestic); others in Inn, Hotel, Eatinghouse – service; coffee, eating, lodging, boarding – housekeepers. Many of these occupations figured highly in Greenstreet, the local commercial centre serving the parishes of Lynsted and Teynham.
XXI - GAS, WATER, AND SANITARY SERVICE (not including Electricity Supply).
This sector tripled in employment over the period (25,291 to 87,485), as utilities were offered more widely. For example, Greenstreet had its own waterworks opposite the end of Station Road.
XXII - OTHER, GENERAL, AND UNDEFINED WORKERS AND DEALERS - Including Gamekeepers, Farmers. Daughters and other Female Relatives returned in England and Wales and Scotland in 1901 and 1911 as assisting in the work of the farm, and Organ Grinders; but excluding Celluloid Makers and Workers, and Circular and Envelope Addressers, Advertising and Bill Posting Agents, and Bill Posters. It is notable that all women in support of farm work were put into this anonymising 'catchall' category.
This category included a generally equal ratio of males and females as General shopkeepers, dealers; pawnbrokers (Including Multiple Shop, Multiple Store-Proprietors, Workers (general or undefined). The number of costermongers, hawkers, and street sellers increased over the period and was mostly made up of males. "General labourers" here are almost entirely to men. The sub-category of Engine – Drivers, stokers, firemen (not Railway, Marine, or Agricultural was entirely made up of men (there were two women ennumerated in Scotland). The last category of "other" saw a significant shift from men (90% - 51%) to women (10% - 49%).
XXIII WITHOUT SPECIFIED OCCUPATIONS OR UNOCCUPIED
This category contained 8,144,463 in 1881 and 12,232,394 in 1911. One consequence of any exercise that tries to brigade occupations and roles under specific labels is that it cannot cope with the diversity and complexity of the workplace and family relationships, roles and dependancies. The census-takers were not able always to fit a person to a category from the returns. So, perhaps there should be no surprise that 80% of this category were women.