Tag Archives: social worker

Visitor Views March

14 Mar

Some women have written, in response to the exhibition, about encountering sexism in the workplace. Particularly shockingly, one visitor remembers that, when she was working as a designer, a client had told her ‘He didn’t talk to me. He preferred to speak with my mate because… “women should be at home just taking care of their children”‘. Another recalls her worst job as being a waitress, ‘men felt it was OK to constantly comment on my height and appearance as I was on “display”. I had to be polite back at all times. I was often spoken to like I was incredibly stupid; I was only doing the job to save up for my masters in economic growth at Cambridge University.’

There are also those remembering struggling to move up the career ladder. A social worker commented that ‘It was always men who moved up to senior management jobs… It is also still seen as “women’s work” and the increase in workload is very stressful- I can’t wait to retire!’. Due to the problems of maternity leave, women still find it difficult to get a successful career. Some describe the ideal work situation as ‘Not having to question when would be a good time in my career to have kids’. Some women have even had breakdowns due to the stress of working in male dominated career areas, although some have successfully moved on from this, such as one visitor who ‘was able to return to college- I graduated with an MA- in women’s studies!’

Many visitors remember the efforts of previous generations of women to go to work, ‘she was a machinist in a dressmaking factory… Physically tiring and then she had to come home and do housework with no domestic appliances’. Another remembers her great grandmother ‘had twelve children… and worked at a Candy Company, NECCO ‘. Jobs that were done by women then are still done today, as one woman wrote, ‘I am about to begin working in the same profession as my mother and grandmother. I am training to be a nurse!’


Book review: Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman

16 Nov

Book cover from Vintage edition

Recently I read a great book, Margaret Forster’s Diary of an Ordinary Woman 1914-1995 (2003). It fitted in so perfectly with the themes of All Work and Low Pay that I thought I’d recommend it to you.

It’s a novel but it took me a while to realise it, because it’s in the form of a very convincing edited diary. The story begins when the author is invited to meet an elderly lady, Millicent King, who has kept a journal recording her whole life since she was 13 years old. What follows is an ‘edited’ version of the fictional diaries, tracing historical events and social change from the First World War to Greenham Common.

The descriptions of Millicent’s experience of work are really interesting as she changes her mind about her career several times: she’s a teacher, a publishing assistant, and one of the earliest social workers, as well as taking on a role as an ambulance driver in the Second World War. There are detailed considerations of training and educational opportunities for women, choices which have to be made when balancing paid work and family responsibilities, the drudgery of unpleasant jobs and the joy of fulfilling work. As well as being a fantastically well researched piece of social history, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable novel, with all the romance and suspense and humour you could wish for. Highly recommended.

Margaret Forster is a very prolific writer, and we have many of her books in The Women’s Library, including Diary of an Ordinary Woman. We’re a reference library, so it may take you a few visits to our Reading Roomto get through the whole novel (you’re very welcome to curl up in a cosy corner and sp

including biographies of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Daphne du Maurier. I was pleased to discover that in a 2002 article in Architect’s Journal, the author described the (then brand-new) Women’s Library as her second-favourite building.