A groundbreaking history of mothers who worked for pay that will change the way we think about gender, work and equality in modern Britain.
In Britain today, three-quarters of mothers are in employment and paid work is an unremarkable feature of women’s lives after childbirth. Yet a century ago, working mothers were in the minority, excluded altogether from many occupations, whilst their wage-earning was widely perceived as a social ill. In Double Lives, Helen McCarthy accounts for this remarkable transformation, whose consequences have been momentous for Britain’s society and economy. Drawing upon a wealth of sources, McCarthy ranges from the smoking chimney-stacks of nineteenth-century Manchester to the shimmering skyscrapers of present-day Canary Wharf. She recovers the everyday worlds of working mothers and traces how women’s desires for financial independence and lives beyond home and family were slowly recognised. McCarthy reveals the deep and complicated past of a phenomenon so often assumed to be a product of contemporary lifestyles and aspirations. This groundbreaking history forces us not only to re-evaluate the past, but to ask anew how current attitudes towards mothers in the workplace have developed and how far we have to go. Through vivid and powerful storytelling, Double Lives offers a social and cultural history for our times.