Workshops fit for Homemakers: the Women’s Co-operative Guild and Housing Reform in Mid-20th Century Britain
Scott, Gill (2007) Workshops fit for Homemakers: the Women’s Co-operative Guild and Housing Reform in Mid-20th Century Britain In: Women and the Making of Built Space in England, 1870-1950. Ashgate, pp. 163-179. ISBN 9780754651857
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This chapter, and the text published by Ashgate, is one of the products of the Gender and Built Space Research Group, based in the University of Brighton and linking closely with other external scholarly networks, such as the Retail History Unit at the University of Wolverhampton. The research agenda of this uniquely interdisciplinary initiative, which explores ways in which gender has shaped and reflected the design and the use of built space, provides the context for Scott’s research. 'Workshops fit for Homemakers' is the culmination of a number of research papers, including those presented at the Centre for the Study of Urban Culture, University of Nottingham (2002), the annual Design History Society Conference (2003) and the Institute of Historical Research (2004), examining the development of housing policy during the Second World War. Its precise focus is the contribution made by working-class women’s organisations to the 1944 Dudley Report that set housing standards for the postwar period, representing a high point in working-class housing specifications and a major advance in public awareness of the conditions of domestic labour. The chapter contends that this particular improvement was not simply a ‘top-down’ application of more enlightened social policies, but also reflected ‘bottom-up’ pressure from an array of women’s groups, in particular, the Women’s Co-operative Guild (WCG), an organisation consisting primarily of working-class wives. The study is based on close interrogation of a range of sources, from governmental records to those of working-class organisations not commonly scrutinised in terms of a continuing historical discourse. It therefore broadens the research agenda from that of a narrowly conceived policy analysis to a more inclusive examination of the dynamics of post-war housing development.
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