In the 1970s, ‘Militants’ from the Women’s Liberation Movement, the trade unions and the revolutionary left came together to ‘mobilise the organised strength of the working class behind a series of basic demands for women workers and housewives’. As part of this movement, the London Trades Council produced a ‘Working women’s Charter’, reproduced below.
WORKING WOMEN’S CHARTER
We pledge ourselves to agitate and organize to achieve the following demands:
1. The rate for the job regardless of sex, at rates negotiated by the trades unions, with a national minimum wage below which no wages should fall.
2. Equal opportunity of entry into occupations and in promotion regardless of sex and marital state.
3. Equal education and training for all occupations and compulsory day-release for all 16- to 19-year-olds in employment.
4. Working conditions to be, without deteriorization of previous conditions, the same for women as for men.
5. The removal of all legal and bureaucratic impediments to equality, e.g. with regard to tenancies, passports, control over children, social security payments, hire purchase agreements.
6. Improved provision of local authority day nurseries, free of charge, with extended hours to suit working mothers. Provision of nursery classes in day nurseries. More nursery schools.
7. 18 weeks maternity leave with full pay before and after birth of a live child; 7 weeks after the birth if the child is stillborn. No dismissal during pregnancy or maternity leave. No loss of security, pension or promotion prospects.
8. Family planning clinics supplying free contraception to be extended to cover every locality. Free abortion to be readily available.
9. Family allowances to be increased to £2·50 per child including the first child.
10. To campaign amongst women to take an active part in trades unions and in political life, so that they may exercise influence commensurate with their numbers and to campaign amongst male trade unionists that they may work to achieve this aim.
Margaret Coulson, Branka Magaš, and Hilary Wainwright, ‘The housewife and her labour under capitalism- a critique’, New Left Review, 89 (Jan-Feb 1975), pp. 59-71
Katie Barclay is a researcher on the history marriage. She has recently been writing on married women’s work and highlights that it is not the new phenomenon sometimes claimed by politicians and media pundits.