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

This page is regularly updated. Sources for specific women are listed at the end of each post. These resources look at groups of women and the history of women at work more broadly.

The history of women at work

Blogs / specialist sites
Sisters of the lens – celebrating women photographers from the 1850s to the 1950s
Woman and her Sphere – a wealth of suffrage stories as well as insights into the world of work
Women Engineers History – histories of women working in engineering and construction

Books written before 1970
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 relevant.

Books written after 1970
A Woman’s Place 1910-1975 by Ruth Adam (1975, new afterword. 2000) Published by Persephone Books, this is a readable social history of the place of women in society in the 20th century with a strong focus on work.
Enterprising Women: The Garretts and their Circle by Elizabeth Crawford (2002). Elizabeth Crawford is also the author of the blog Woman and her Sphere (see above).
Significant Sisters by Margaret Forster (1984). This focuses on eight areas of change, 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). Explores the founding of the Women’s Engineering Society in 1919 and in particular the stories of Katharine and Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett.
Rebel Women Between the Wars: Fearless Writers and Adventurers by Sarah Lonsdale (2020). A multiple biography of women in mountaineering, politics, engineering and journalism.
Women in Business, 1700-1850 by Nicola Phillips (2006).
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). Focuses on the lives of professional women who could pursue their careers as a result of the 1919 Sex Disqualification Removal Act. Particular focus on medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the Church.

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 exceptions 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 the world of work for many, less fortunate, Victorian women.

Specialist research bodies
The Women’s Library – London School of Economics.
The Bedford Centre for the History of Women and Gender – Royal Holloway, University of London

Digitised resources
One of the best resources for finding out about women at work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is the British Newspaper Archive. The digitisation of newspapers like The Queen, The Gentlewoman, The Vote and Common Cause makes what women were doing far more visible and accessible.

The Women’s Library has digitised copies of annual reports, pamphlets and newspapers published by women’s organisations.

The Women Engineer, the journal of the Women’s Engineering Society, published since 1919, is also available in a digitised and searchable form. The WES worked with many other women’s groups and so gives insight into the work of women in a wide range of sectors.

If you want to go right back to the start, the proceedings of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Sciences are all available via HathiTrust. Here you can read speeches by Barbara Bodichon, Octavia Hill and Rhoda Garrett.

Women at Work today

Blogs / specialist sites
Catalyst – Workplaces that Work for Women
The First 100 Years – the past and future of women in the legal profession
Women in Banking and Finance – an industry-wide membership network
The Fawcett Society – campaigning for, among other things, pay equality for women

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.