Tag Archives: university

Guest Post- Phoebe (aged 15)

21 Mar

I’m Phoebe, I work as a volunteer at the Women’s Library and I am writing about women across generations in my family.

Surprisingly, the things I want to do in my life are not very different to those that my grandmothers and great grandmother did. Although neither my paternal grandmother nor great grandmother have held down any real job, my great grandmother did go to university to study languages (French and Italian, at the Sorbonne and in Perugia) and I am also planning to do either French and Russian or History at university. My maternal grandmother worked as a nurse in an Australian boarding school, which, whilst it is something which I would definitely not consider as a career option, I do admire as she was a single mother.

I would love to have a career, perhaps as a journalist or a writer but I would also like to have children and raise a family, something all the women in my family have successfully done. My great grandmother brought her daughter up through the Second World War, and they had to flee from the Nazis in the south of France. My paternal grandmother managed to bring up five children in a single parent family and my maternal grandmother both held down a job as a nurse at the local boarding school and cared for four children. I would like to be as successful a mother as them, although I hope my parenting style will be much different. My great grandmother can remember leaving her daughter outside in the snow whilst she did her shopping, whilst my paternal grandmother swept the youngest children off to India, where they received minimal education.

Although the world of work has opened up considerably, for women of my grandparent’s generation the only careers available were nursing or teaching, there are still glass ceilings to be broken. There are very few female executives and jobs requiring strenuous activity, such as janitors, the army and sports teachers, are still mainly male dominated. There are also female dominated areas, such as receptionists, nursing and hair dressing. To create a truly equal society, these gender barriers and stereotypes must be overcome.

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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!’