Show Less
Restricted access

Women and Trade Unions in France

The Tobacco and Hat Industries, 1890–1914


Sandra Salin

Based on the thorough examination of French archival sources, this book examines in detail two industries in which women formed the majority of the workforce in France between 1890 and 1914. The choice of the tobacco and hat industries is particularly relevant in the sense that the tobacco industry, unlike the hat industry, was a state monopoly in which women were in the majority and held meaningful responsibilities in unions at a time when women were generally in the minority and under-represented in the labour movement.
The main aim of this comparison is to assess and qualify differences between both industries in terms of workforce and work organisation, trade unions’ attitudes to women and women’s membership and participation in order to get a better understanding of the factors that could have had an impact on female workers’ attitude towards trade unions.
By making women’s presence more visible, therefore more apprehensible, this book contributes to a better understanding of the way in which women perceived themselves, and were perceived, as workers, women, union members and militants in French trade union history prior to 1914.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Introduction: The Context


Women’s work has a long history that has been rarely closely exemplified. The objective of comparing and analysing the relationship between female workers and trade unionism in two different industries in France before 1914 is twofold: the labour movement as a whole has been approached by previous authors in a variety of ways, but major gaps remain, particularly in the realms of gender and case studies.

Firstly, while some aspects of feminism resulted in the expansion of women’s history in the labour movement, this development was uneven. As shown below, an imbalance is particularly noticeable when considering the study of women in the French labour movement before 1914. On the one hand, the place to be allocated to women in socialist politics has been the topic of extensive and wide-ranging studies. On the other hand, although the attempts of the trade union movement to deal with women were, by 1914, relatively more encouraging, they remained comparatively neglected in the history of this movement for a long time,1 which gave rise to the belief that they did not exist or did not get involved in unions simply because they were not mentioned.

Secondly, the existing literature in the field of women in trade unions has not yet covered all the aspects essential to understand the differences existing from one industry to another. Further studies are needed to qualify the general assumption made on women’s lack of involvement in trade ← 1 | 2 → unionism as well...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.