Other people’s children: single women and residential childcare in mid-20th century England
Holden, K. (2010) Other people’s children: single women and residential childcare in mid-20th century England. Management & Organizational History, 5 (3-4). 314-330 . ISSN 1744-9359
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1744935910370192
This article compares the conditions of service for unmarried women working as house mothers in institutions run by a local authority and a voluntary association (the National Children’s Homes) in mid-20th-century England. It explores the different organizational structures within which these women were employed and examines tensions relating to class, gender, occupational and marital status and emotional labour. It concludes that there were conflicts between the high value that was attached to these women’s perceived role as nurturers for Britain’s citizens of the future and their relatively low professional and economic status. In the case of the local authority, who believed married couples were most suitable for this kind of work, tensions were exacerbated by the women’s marital status. Women working in this field often made a high level of personal investment and this was recognized in the National Children Homes, which offered workers a professional training, pay structure and retirement provision. However in both the case histories the hard physical and emotional labour performed by these women and the organizational structures within which their work was located put them under considerable strain, making it difficult for them always to offer the continuity of care the children needed.
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