This thesis sets out to explore the links between the women's movement and the
housing reform movement in Britain in the period 1860 to 1914. Both these
movements have been well-documented, but the role which women played in housing
has received little attention from historians of housing, and conversely, the issue of
housing has largely been overlooked by historians of the women's movement.
Definitions of home and housing are explored, together with the way in which the
dominant ideology of the home, and women's role within it, was constructed in the
period. The Victorian housing problem, and the housing reform movement which
arose in response to this, are outlined in order to set the context within which women
activists worked. A statistical analysis is made, on a national scale, of the types of
accommodation in which single working women lived and a description given of their
living conditions. The extent of women's homelessness, and the provision made for
this group, are also discussed.
Three groups of women active in housing are investigated: Octavia Hill and her fellow
workers who managed housing schemes for the working-classes, the Girls' Friendly
Society which provided a national network of accommodation lodges for single women,
and the National Association for Women's Lodging Homes, which campaigned for the
provision of municipal lodging houses for women. Among the questions investigated
are the extent of the work of the women involved in these areas, the different ways in
which they perceived, and responded to, the housing needs of women, and how this
may have changed over time. The feminist dimensions of women's work in housing
are also explored: The work carried out has shown that women were active in housing
on a scale which has not previously been recognised, and that the women involved
exemplified many of the traits of the early women's movement.
Department of History, Philosophy and ReligionFaculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
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