A Historical View of Studies of Women’s Work
This paper places observational studies of women’s work in historical perspective. We present some of the very early studies (carried out in the period from 1900 to 1930), as well as several examples of fieldwork-based studies of women’s work, undertaken from different perspectives and in varied locations between the 1960s and the mid 1990s. We outline and discuss several areas of thought which have influenced studies of women’s work - the automation debate; the focus on the skills women need in their work; labour market segregation; women’s health; and technology and the redesign of work – and the research methods they used. Our main motivation in this paper is threefold: to demonstrate how fieldwork based studies which have focussed on women’s work have attempted to locate women’s work in a larger context that addresses its visibility and value; to provide a thematic historiography of studies of women’s work, thereby also demonstrating the value of an historical perspective, and a means through which to link it to contemporary themes; and to increase awareness of varied methodological perspectives on how to study work.