19 Pages

Setting the Scene

My interest in work-related ill-health had more contemporary origins. I have had an academic and personal interest in women’s health in general for many years and in the early 1980s I became a member of a small women’s group who were concerned about the hazards women faced in their work. The necessity for a separate organization of women for women was the oft-repeated situation that many feminist groups have encountered in other areas of social and political life; the ‘work hazards movement’ was male dominated and it was difficult for women within it to get women’s concerns on the agenda. It was also clear that the trade-union movement, which had long been in the vanguard of the struggle to protect workers from aspects of their working conditions, had often failed their women members.1 There were many women in non-unionized workplaces, in part-time work and forms of casual labour whose problems were largely unrecognized.