Thesis (Ph.D)

Housing and the women's movement, 1860-1914


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.

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Morrell, Caroline

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of History, Philosophy and Religion
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences


Year: 1999

© Morrell, C
Published by Oxford Brookes University
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