Dr Laura Paterson

  • Women’s history
  • Labour history
  • Class and social mobility

I am working on two major research projects, linked by my interest in women’s labour.

The British Academy funds my postdoctoral research. I examine the role of women’s employment in social mobility. Clerks were part of the emerging middle-class in twentieth-century Britain, and the number of female clerical workers increased across the century. I research clerical workers in urban centres across Britain between 1920 and 2000, using quantitative and qualitative methods and an interdisciplinary approach. Historians know little about clerical work and the women who did it. My project considers clerical work as a significant and desirable job for women when female career options were limited, and which offers insights into gender, class and social mobility in twentieth-century Britain.  More information on my project is available here.

My second project is my first monograph, based partly on my doctoral research, on working-class women and their employment between 1945 and 1980. I take a life-course approach to demonstrate that paid work meant something different to women at different stages in their life, but that having a job and being a worker were important to women throughout their life. Personal testimony is central to my research. I use over forty oral history interviews with women across Britain to recover and foreground women’s memories and experiences of paid work. 

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