100 Years of Women's Work in the Scottish Building Industry: 1820-1920

Nina Baker

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In the early 21st century, and a generation after equal opportunities legislation in the UK, it is still the case that work choices are gendered. The construction industry remains one of the most segregated of occupations, being still predominantly white and male. There have been various attempts over the years to encourage women to take up construction trades but the barriers facing such women remain the same: traditionalist prejudices that this is not women's work. The woman who chooses to take up a manual trade is likely to be isolated and made to feel she is pioneering in unexplored territory, because women have never done this kind of work before. Whilst that may be true at the level of some personal experiences, it is not the case in terms of historical fact. Records show that women were working in all the main building trades, to a greater or lesser extent, from earliest times. Starting from the point in 1820 when trades directories begin to record who did what and where in Scotland, it is possible to find women working as painters, brickmakers, gasfitters, joiners and so on, in all the Scottish counties and throughout the hundred years under consideration. Is it possible that we are less egalitarian now than in the past? Looking at statistics and life stories of women from 1820-1920 yields some surprising results and uncovers the hidden history of Scottish women quietly getting on with their work - in the building industry. This demonstrates that women working in the industry today are more than pioneers, their work is a continuation of a path trodden by others. Can the industry use this historical path to guide its way to a more diverse future?
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Oct 2006
EventWomen’s History Scotland conference - Dundee
Duration: 1 Oct 2006 → …


ConferenceWomen’s History Scotland conference
Period1/10/06 → …


  • architecture
  • women
  • work
  • building industry


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