Skip to main content Skip to navigation

The 'Sweated Trades': Working life in the early 20th century

Work in the sweated trades

In 1909 the Trade Board Act introduced legally enforceable minimum wages for the first time. Trade Boards were established to regulate wages in specific 'sweated' trades - industries with long working hours, poor working conditions and low pay, many of which relied on women workers.

Most of the documents in this online collection are from the archives of the Trades Union Congress, and were collected by some of the workers' representatives on the Trade Boards. They include information about working conditions and wages in some of the sweatshop industries of the early 20th century.

This digitisation project is still a work in progress and more documents will be added during 2019.

Explore the documents digitised so far:

Search all sources

Browse all sources

Find out more:

What are 'sweated' industries?

What were trade boards?

Campaigning against the 'sweated trades':

The Sweated Industries exhibition, 1906

The Brass and Metal Workers' Crusade, 1909-10

The trades:

The women chainmakers of Cradley Heath

Tin box workers

Laundry workers

Lace finishers