Reading list

Image: Kate Lewis reading a book by Edward Burne-Jones

Here you can find a range of books that explore the world of work for women, some UK-specific, some with a more global focus

The history of women and work (written pre-1970)

‘The Cause’ by Ray Strachey (1928, re-issued by Virago in 1978)
Subtitled ‘A Short History of the Women’s Movement in Great Britain’, this has a lot of valuable information on the various struggles to give women more right to work from the 1840s to the 1920s.

‘British Women in the Twentieth Century’ by Elsie M Lang (1929)
This includes chapters on specific professions as well as a chapter on ‘Careers for Women’, which highlights the successes of a range of named women.

‘Women and a changing civilisation’ by Winifred Holtby (1934)
Nearly 90 years old and still worryingly relevant.

‘Mainly for Men’ by Ethel M Wood (1943)
Looks at the role of women in society including the world of work.

The history of women and work (written post-1970)

‘A Woman’s Place 1910-1975’ by Ruth Adam (1975, re-issued by Persephone Books in 2000)
A readable social history of the place of women in British society in the 20th century with a strong focus on work.

‘Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle’ by Elizabeth Crawford (2002)
Looks in more depth at the influence of the Garretts and other connected families over a range of areas with a significant emphasis on commercial enterprises and the professions. Elizabeth Crawford is also the author of the blog Woman and her Sphere

‘Significant Sisters’ by Margaret Forster (1984)
Explores eight areas of change in Britain during the Victorian area, such as the Law, the Professions, Education, Politics and Birth Control, and the women who drove them including Caroline Norton, Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Davies and Margaret Sanger.

‘Magnificent Women and Their Revolutionary Machines’ by Henrietta Heald (2019)
Tells the story of the founding of the Women’s Engineering Society in 1919 and with a particular focus on Katharine and Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett.

‘Rebel Women Between the Wars: Fearless Writers and Adventurers’ by Sarah Lonsdale (2020)
A multiple biography of British women in mountaineering, politics, engineering and journalism.

‘Women in Business, 1700-1850’ by Nicola Phillips (2006)
A re-appraisal of women’s business enterprises in Britain during this period showing the extent of their activity.

‘Women and the Women’s Movement in Britain 1914-1959’ by Martin Pugh (1993)
Fills in the gap between the end of Edwardian suffragism and the feminist movements of the 1960s.

‘Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders’ by Jane Robinson (2020)
Looks at the impact of the 1919 Sex Disqualification Removal Act on the entry of women into the professions in Britain. Particular focus on medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the Church.

‘A Woman’s World: 1850-1960’ by Marina Amaral and Dan Jones (2022)
Celebrates the lives and stories of women from all countries and walks of life and includes entries on Hilda Hewlett, Caroline Haslett, Syrie Maugham, Lena Ashwell and Kate Meyrick.

‘The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper’ by Hallie Rubenhold (2019) ‘What is this book doing on the list?’ you might be asking. The women featured in my project, particularly those born between 1837 and 1870 are exceptional in the careers they were able to make for themselves and the level of financial independence they were able to achieve. The lives of the five women featured in this book were far less exceptional: it is their deaths that have made them famous. In re-constructing their stories, Hallie Rubenhold gives valuable insight into life for many, less fortunate, Victorian women.

Gender equality in the workplace

‘What Works: Gender Equality by Design’ by Iris Bohnet (2016)
Explores the role of behavioural design in creating a fairer workplace.

‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez (2019)
Exposes the role that a data bias towards men plays in women’s lives.

‘Mother of Invention’ by Katrine Marçal (2021)
Looks at the way in which women’s ideas and experiences influence design. It includes a particularly interesting chapter on the history of women in computing and the way in which pay and prestige for computing jobs increased as women were replaced by men.