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Women at work

Presented here are extracts from interviews conducted in 1980 by Veronica Beechey and Tessa Perkins of the Warwick University sociology department as part of a study of the part-time employment of women in various parts of the private and public sectors in Coventry. The study was published as A matter of hours. Women, part-time work and the labour market (Cambridge, 1987).

The interviews provide evidence of attitudes to part-time work and women’s employment generally whilst some also contain descriptions of the tasks undertaken in particular jobs. They can be heard in their entirety from the relevant descriptions in our on-line catalogue.

On related themes we also hold:

There is also a full list of digitised interviews of female workers, managers and others arranged by employment sector.


Mrs Fulton, part-time cake decorator at Storer's Bakery, interviewed by Tessa Perkins

“We pipe them out flat [and] drape them over poles to dry” (1.55)

The weekly intricacies of preparing three-tier wedding cakes.


Listen to the whole interview: MSS.278/4/1/2 side 1 (32:03), side 2 (32:07); MSS.278/4/1/3 side 1 (31:54), side 2 (32:00).

Mr Olgiati, Bakers’ Union official, interviewed by Tessa Perkins

“In the daytime the women made the cakes” (1:44)

The traditional male/female division of labour in baking and the change of products as the ovens cooled.


Listen to the whole interview: MSS.278/4/1/13 side 1 (30:32), side 2 (30:34); MSS.278/4/1/14 side 1 (30:28), side 2 (30:28).

Mr Draper, accountant at Sutton’s Bakery, interviewed by Tessa Perkins

“I didn’t snatch you off the street and drag you in!” (2:11)

The resentful attitude of some working women.


“I would’ve thought that it was necessary to stay at home and look after a young baby” (1:25)

An old-fashioned view of the return of mothers to the workplace?


Listen to the whole interview: MSS.278/4/1/7 side 1 (23:43), side 2 (30:33); MSS.278/4/1/8 side 1 (7:39).

Mechanical engineering

Sid Owen, personnel officer at Alfred Herbert Limited, interviewed by Tessa Perkins

“If they weren’t busy all the time they could do a bit of knitting” (1:08)

Women operating overhead cranes with a more sensitive touch on the buttons than their male colleagues.
Electrical engineering


Listen to the whole interview: MSS.278/4/3/1 side 1 (31:55), side 2 (26:30).

John Corriman, training controller at GEC, interviewed by Veronica Beechey

"A disgracefully small proportion of the population” (2:38)

The dearth of female engineers and possible ways to remedy it.


“A little computer linked to a typewriter" (1:48)

A £6000 Olivetti word processor reducing the need for clerk/typists but providing extra job satisfaction for “the girls in the office.”


Listen to the whole interview: MSS.278/4/4/1 side 1 (31:57), side 2 (31:48); MSS.278/4/4/2 side 1 (32:52), side 2 (32:42); MSS.278/4/4/3 side 1 (32:04), side 2 (32:07).