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Working Lives: Gender, Migration and Employment in Britain, 1945-2007



Working Lives: Gender, Migration and Employment in Britain, 1945-2007

Linda McDowell

ISBN: 978-1-118-34924-3 April 2013 Wiley-Blackwell 296 Pages


Full of unique and compelling insights into the working lives of migrant women in the UK, this book draws on more than two decades of in-depth research to explore the changing nature of women’s employment in post-war Britain.

  • A first-rate example of theoretically located empirical analysis of labour market change in contemporary Britain
  • Includes compelling case studies that combine historical documentation of social change with fascinating first-hand accounts of women’s working lives over decades
  • Integrates information gleaned from more than two decades of in-depth research
  • Revealing comparative analysis of the similarities and differences in the lives of immigrant working women in post-war Britain
  • Features real-life accounts of women’s under-reported experiences of migration
List of Figures and Tables viii

Series Editors’ Preface x

Preface: Leaving Home and Looking for Work xi

Part One Migration and Mobilities 1

1 Leaving Home: Migration and Working Lives 3

2 Gendering Labour Geographies and Histories 19

3 The Transformation of Britain 51

Part Two Out to Work: Embodied Genealogies 69

4 Post-war Reconstruction, 1945–1951 71

5 Coming Home: The Heart of Empire, 1948–1968 95

6 Years of Struggle, 1968–1979 128

7 Privilege and Inequality, 1979–1997 157

8 Back to the Future: Diversity and Precarious Labour, 1997–2007 184

9 Full Circle, 1945–2007 213

References 232

Appendix: Post-war Legislation 253

Index 263

“A compelling and comprehensive analysis of how gender, ethnicity, and class intersect within the labor market. McDowell’s feminist theoretical lens allows her to investigate and problematize the ways that migrant women are often marginalized and normalized as docile and apolitical. Furthermore, her careful and detailed use of migrant women’s narratives brings great empirical depth to the book. Within studies of migration, labor, and gender, McDowell’s book is an important contribution to the literature on international migration. It offers a detailed historical examination of migrant women in the United Kingdom and is a rich example of how a critical feminist approach can allow us to investigate the marginalization of migrants and normalization of gender issues.”  (The International Migration Review, Summer 2015)

“It remains that Working Lives is undoubtedly a remarkable achievement and will remain for the foreseeable future a key text for anyone interested in the history of migrant women and migrants more generally in post-war Britain.”  (Oral History, 1 May 2015)

“In what is a very refreshing contrast to many of the more recent accounts of immaterial labor, which tend to focus on the highly skilled and well-paid sectors of the labor market and, to a great extent, on an undifferentiated image of the postindustrial worker, McDowell foregrounds the actual laboring bodies of migrant women, marked as they are by gender, skin color, nationality, class, ethnicity, and other signs of difference.”   (Economic Geography, 1 January 2015)

“Recommended.  Upper-division undergraduates and above.”  (Choice, 1 February 2014)

Review appeared in Times Higher Education - 10 October 2013

“McDowell provides intriguing, important insights into the female immigrant experience, drawing selectively on interviews with sections of this complex shifting population.  It is too diverse an experience to survey comprehensively in a short book, but it whets my appetite for a fuller version that draws on all of the interviews she conducted.”  (Times Higher Education, 10 October 2013)