‘Pioneers in the Corridors of Power’: Women Civil Servants at the Board of Trade and the Factory Inspectorate, 1893-1919

Wheeldon, Christine. 2015. ‘Pioneers in the Corridors of Power’: Women Civil Servants at the Board of Trade and the Factory Inspectorate, 1893-1919. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In the early 1890s university educated women who were considered experts on women’s issues were appointed to the Home Office and the Board of Trade. This thesis investigates their work, lives and the impact of these appointments with in the political context of the period (1893 - 1919): the expansion of the women’s movements, the rediscovery of poverty and the development of social conscience. A select group of nine women have been identified. They were pioneers in the establishment of a position for women in the professional grades within the Civil Service. Their numbers expanded during the First World War but contracted sharply afterwards.

The study reconstructs the ‘life histories’ of this cohort, their working practices and investigates their legacy for the civil service, for feminism and for the industrial working lives of women. It examines the influence of their work on legislation and on improvements in the working lives of women in industry and workshops throughout Britain. Sources include Parliamentary papers, select committee reports, census returns and directories as well as biographical sources and some private papers to reconstruct their working practices.

In improved sanitary conditions, the reduction of hours, the gradual elimination of truck violations, increased protection against injurious industrial processes, this cohort were effective. Clara Collet’s work played a significant part in the investigative process resulting in the first Trade Boards Act in 1909 and her statistical analyses of the effects of industrial work on women and their children informed both government and the public. These women civil servants’ war work was also impressive and they served on several reconstruction committees. However, post-war politics seriously impeded the progress that such a distinguished beginning might have indicated. Chapter six explores the way in which the women’s achievements were obfuscated after 1919.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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women's history, civil service, home office and board of trade, 1893-1919

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28 February 2015

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Date Deposited:

04 Mar 2015 12:26

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:31



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