Leicester and Married Women Working:

John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor

2013-10-10 14.55.49As we have suggested (Goodwin and O’Connor 2013b) our first encounter with Pearl Jephcott was not a direct one. We were not aware of her books, beyond the occasional citation, and we were certainly unaware of the sheer breadth and depth of Jephcott’s contribution to British social science. We became interested in Jephcott be cause of her apparent links to Leicester via the Married Women Working research or what in Leicester became to be known locally as ‘the married women project’. Although not a well-known research collaboration there are tantalising references to this research in the literature. For example, as Smith (1961) reports:

The social science Dept. of the London School of Economics and the Sociology Dept. of the University of Leicester have together been collecting data designed among other things to test the stereotypes in industrial situations….Ours in Bermondsey at first based itself on the Peek Frean biscuit factory and the later extended into a study of family life in a local community. The Leicester study has so far based itself on the St. Margaret factory of N. Corah & Sons. (Smith 1961: 13).

The Richard Titmuss papers at the LSE reveal a shared project, led by Ilya Neustadt1, designed specially to offer a comparative study of the employment of women in a Leicester factory with those women who worked for Peek Frean.  Yet despite receiving a total of of £5986 over three years for a project, requests to DSIR extend the research time supported by Richard Titmuss, and a significant amount of fieldwork undertaken, the Leicester version of the married women project only delivered one paper (see Brown et al 1964). As with the ‘young worker project’ (see Goodwin and O’Connor 2005) the married women study was to enter the ether as yet another substantive piece of fieldwork that ultimately failed to deliver on its promise.  Yet it is the intersections between this failed project, the originally successful Bermondsey study and Jephcott’s innovative research designs that fascinates us the most. Moreover these projects, successful or otherwise, consider themes such as childcare, work life balance, women in management and so forth well before these become the central concern of sociology following the feminist critique of the 1970s and 1980s. As Oakely suggests, Jephcott studied working-class women at a time when the study of working-class culture meant studying men (Oakely 1989: 445). We are revisiting both variants of the married women project not least to ascertain the scope and extent of the Leicester project and to critically examine what Jephcott’s Married Women Working offers contemporary analyses of gender and work (see Goodwin and O’Connor 2013b).


[1] Although in reality it is likely that Richard Brown undertook all of the significant work on the Leicester version of the study.


Brown, R.K., Kirkby, J.M. and Taylor, K.F. (1964) The Employment of Married Women and the role of the Supervisory Role, British Journal of Industrial Relations, 2(1): 23-41.

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2013a) Embodying Leisure: The Use of Images in Jephcott’s Time of Ones Own, LERN Occasional Papers No. 2

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor H. (2013b) The Employment of Married Women in a Leicester Factory 1959. LERN Occasional Papers No. 3 (forthcoming).

Goodwin, J. and O’Connor, H. (2006) Norbert Elias and the Lost Young Worker Project, Journal of Youth Studies, 9 (2), 159-173.

Jephcott, P. with Seear, N. and Smith, J.H. (1962) Married Women Working. London: Allen and Unwin

Oakley, A. (1989) Women’s Studies in British Sociology: To End at Our Beginning?  The British Journal of Sociology, 40(3): 442-470.

Smith, J.H. (1961) Managers and Married Women Workers, British Journal of Sociology, 12(1): 12-22.

Published by John Goodwin


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