“Is work a dirty word now?”
At the end of January, our project with Single Parent Action Network kicked off. Over the next seven weeks, as part of the Connected Communities “Know Your Bristol On The Move” project, we will be working as a team to explore the history of women’s work in the local area. The results of our research will be uploaded to the Know Your Place website, as well as being at the heart of an exhibition and family history day on March 15.
I am working together with Debi Withers, a talented local historian and exhibition-maker, to faciliate the workshops,. Ten women of different ages, backgrounds and experiences make up the core of our research team.
Our first meeting was taken up with an intense discussion of the nature of work, and of women’s work in particular. The group identified a whole host of associations and anxieties: the expectation of being in paid work, the competition for jobs, and the poor pay and conditions if you got one. We talked about the gendered nature of work, and the difficulties of combining work and childcare, especially on a low wage. Work and health also came up: concerns about the impact of unemployment on mental health, but also the ways in which work can damage your health and sap your energy. Yet despite the invisibility and low status of much women’s work, participants also talked about the pleasures and sense of achievement that they got from domestic work and childrearing.
It will be exciting to see how this project will evolve over the next seven weeks, as we work together with the research team on all aspects of this project, from ethics and consent, to interview design, to choosing material for upload to the website, to physically making the exhibition. Our next step (literally) is a guided walk, led by Mike Baker, one of the local history heroes from Living Easton. Now where’s my umbrella?