‘Women’s Voices’ at Barry U3A

Sunday, 18 February 2018

By Contributed Item
in Local People

On the anniversary of the Representation of People Act in 1918, when women over 30 and ‘of property’ achieved the right to vote, David Maddox gave a talk to Barry U3A on ‘Women’s Voices in the Valleys from 1900 to 1914’.

His talk did not centre on the fight for the right to vote, as women in the Valleys at that time usually had much more pressing issues on their minds.

Their menfolk mostly worked down the mines and it was the woman’s job to ensure that they had a good meal and a bath to come home to.

In reality, a woman’s role was to make a home for others, where families of 12 were not uncommon.

This was very demanding and statistics showed that the death rates for women at that time were actually much higher than for men. The constant childbearing and continuous housework took their toll.

Around 20 per cent of women worked outside the home, sometimes even at the pits themselves. Working as a shop assistant was very popular even though the pay was usually less, and a few women had jobs as ‘white blouse girls’, meaning they were clerical workers.

The major employment for women at that time was in domestic service. Most girls were given ‘training’ in such domestic activities as washing, ironing and cooking in preparation for leaving home at around the age of 14. Many took jobs away from the Valleys or outside Wales.

Life was not all drudgery, however, and we should not think that women did not have some fun. While middle class women joined campaigns for the Suffragists, the vast majority of women looked for more entertaining activities.

Some became involved in the Temperance or Religious Revival movements, because these offered the chance to belong to a choir and put on concerts.

Women also enjoyed going to theatres, of which there were many.

There was even roller skating and Sunday outings to Barry or Porthcawl.

David pointed out that there are very few statues of women in Wales, despite their many sacrifices and the huge contributions they made, and still make, to society. Of the statues in Cardiff City Hall, the only woman is of Boudicca!

We have heard that a statue of a ‘prominent Welsh woman’ is to be erected in Cardiff’s Central Square soon to help redress the balance and await its unveiling.

If you are no longer in full time employment or raising a family, then you are in your third age and new members are very welcome to come along to our meetings.

The next meeting takes place on Monday, March 5 at 2pm in Bethel Baptist Church Hall, Harbour Road on the roundabout in Park Crescent. Contact Christine on 01446 701537.

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