Women Mill Workers (Oldham)

Dr. Michele Abendstern conducted interviews with women mill workers from the Oldham and Ashton areas between June 2001 and October 2002 on cassette and minidisc. Women shared their life stories, detailing the conditions they experienced in the mills and the impact this had upon their health.

These interviews formed part of Professor Christine Hallett’s study ‘The Health and Welfare of Women Cotton Mill Workers in Oldham and Ashton-under-Lyne, 1930-1970’. A number of publications were produced during the course of the study including ‘Flouting the Law: Women and the Hazards of Cleaning Moving Machinery in the Cotton Industry, 1930-1970’, by Michele Abendstern, Christine Hallet and Lesley Wade, Oral History, Volume 33 Number 2, Autumn 2005. The recorded interviews, notes and journal article were also deposited at Oldham Local Studies and Archives by Dr. Michele Abendstern in 2018.

The women recall how they started working in the mill, many of them still children and working half time while attending school for part of the week. They talk about their job and their specific duties. The women describe the shocking conditions they worked in and how these contributed to accidents, illnesses and ultimately affected their health in the long term. The interviews also show how improvements such as masks and extractor fans where eventually introduced, along with medical care and on site nurseries. The camaraderie between the women is clear, from having older women look out for the younger ones to groups of friends going out dancing together.


The full length interviews will be available at Oldham Local Studies and Archives in due course.

You can read the full descriptions online at the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image catalogue. The British Library collection reference is UAP012. The local reference is L2018.102/.

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