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The Struggle for Equal Pay

The 2007 annual Advisory Board lecture was on 'The Struggle for Equal Pay'. Our speakers were Jo Morris, Senior Equality and Employment Rights Officer of the Trades Union Congress, and Sue Hastings, an independent pay and employment adviser. The examples below were taken from an exhibition of documents to accompany the lecture, and show just a small selection of the records we hold which relate to equal pay and women in the workplace.

You can find out more about equal pay and its archives in a podcast of interviews with Jo Morris, Sue Hastings and Rodney Bickerstaffe, the former trade union leader and chairman of our Advisory Board. Further information also is available on the TUC's equal pay website.

Click on the 'thumbnail' to see a larger version of each document.

Try searching our online catalogue to find information about more documents relating to equal pay.

 
'The working life of women', 1911: Fabian Tract by Miss B L Hutchins of the Fabian Women's Group
'The working life of women', 1911: Fabian Tract by Miss B L Hutchins of the Fabian Women's Group

This pamphlet examines the condition of working women in Britain and, amongst other issues, looks at economic hardship for women as a result of unequal wages. It particularly argues the case of widows, who, in the absence of social security or higher wages, are left unable to support young families.

[From the archives of the Union of Post Office Workers, document reference: MSS.148/UCW/6/13/41/2]

Appeal to women workers to stand for equal wages and conditions, from the Workers' National Committee, [1914-1918]
Appeal to women workers to stand for equal wages and conditions, from the Workers' National Committee, [1914-1918]

The War Emergency Workers' National Committee was established in 1914 to protect the interests of workers during the First World War. It campaigned on issues such as employment, wages and conditions of service.

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/525]

Postcard of munitions workers employed at Woolwich, [1914-1918]
Postcard of munitions workers employed at Woolwich, [1914-1918]

Photograph of seven women employed to manufacture detonator plugs at the Woolwich Arsenal.

[From the 'Miscellaneous series' of records, document reference: MSS.21/2164/1]

Report of delegate to conference on war service for women, 1915
Report of delegate to conference on war service for women, 1915

A resolution in favour of equal pay for equal work was passed.

[From the archives of the Postal and Telegraph Clerks' Association, MSS.148/PA/2/5/1].

"The Educational Crisis": leaflet about anti-equal pay rally by London Schoolmasters, 1919
"The Educational Crisis": leaflet about anti-equal pay rally by London Schoolmasters, 1919

In 1919 the National Union of Teachers passed a resolution in favour of equal pay. This resulted in the rally described in this leaflet and the formation of the National Association of Men Teachers (later to become the National Association of Schoolmasters).

[From the archives of the National Association of Schoolmasters, MSS.38C/LSA/4/2]

"Sex War in Schools": press coverage of conference speech by the President of the National Association of Schoolmasters, 1927
"Sex War in Schools": press coverage of conference speech by the President of the National Association of Schoolmasters, 1927

The speech argues that only male teachers can properly "train a boy in habits of manliness", and that female secondary school teachers would be a "triumph of feminism" and therefore "a national calamity".

[From the archives of the National Association of Schoolmasters, MSS.38A/7/1]

'Factory Legislation. Equality or Absurdity' by Rhys J. Davies MP, 1925
'Factory Legislation. Equality or Absurdity' by Rhys J. Davies MP, 1925

Statement by a Labour MP objecting to the concept of equality promoted by an 'Open Door Council' circular to trade unions on the 'Factory Bill and the status of the women worker'.

[From the records of the Trades Union Congress, document reference: MSS.292/134.1/1]

'Call to the Third Conference of the Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker', 1933
'Call to the Third Conference of the Open Door International for the Economic Emancipation of the Woman Worker', 1933

The Open Door Council was founded in Britain in 1927 to campaign for equal economic rights for women workers. It became an international movement two years later.

[From the records of the Trades Union Congress, document reference: MSS.292/134.1/1]

'Equal Pay for Equal Work?': Communist Party pamphlet in favour of equal pay, 1944
'Equal Pay for Equal Work?': Communist Party pamphlet in favour of equal pay, 1944

In 1944 the wartime government set up a Royal Commission on Equal Pay. In its report, two years later, it recommended that teachers, local government officers and civil servants should all receive equal pay.

[From the papers of Richard Albert Etheridge, MSS.202/CP/103/14]

'Equal Pay for Equal Work': Daily Worker 'Educational Commentary' in favour of equal pay, 1944
'Equal Pay for Equal Work': Daily Worker 'Educational Commentary' in favour of equal pay, 1944

The Daily Worker was the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

[From the papers of Richard Albert Etheridge, MSS.202/CP/103/13]

'Equal Pay for Women = Less Pay for Men', undated (late 1950s?): Leaflet of the National Association of Schoolmasters, attacking the policy of the National Union of Teachers on equal pay
'Equal Pay for Women = Less Pay for Men', undated (late 1950s?): Leaflet of the National Association of Schoolmasters, attacking the policy of the National Union of Teachers on equal pay

[From the archives of the National Association of Schoolmasters, MSS.38A/4/6/40/1]