WOMEN POST OFFICE WORKERS IN BRITAIN: THE LONG STRUGGLE FOR GENDER EQUALITY AND THE POSITIVE IMPACT OF WORLD WAR II

Mark James Crowley

Abstract


In Britain during the Second World War, the Post Office constituted the single largest employer of women. Historically, the Post Office, like many other employers, had discriminated against women. During World War I, shortages of male labor had resulted in some opportunities for women at the Post Office, but the improvement had neither been comprehensive nor enduring. Unlike World War I, World War II, however, proved to a real turning point in the Post Office's personnel practices. By the end of the Second World War, while the Post Office still did not treat women workers completely equally (persisting, for instance, in gender-biased pay practices), management nevertheless had made strides in their treatment and perception of women workers. Post Office executives increasingly perceived women on the payroll not as temporary wartime employees, but as permanent employees, who would be just as essential peacetime as in war.

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