Today, it is taken for granted that many shop assistants are women, but 150 years ago, being served by a shopgirl was a strange new phenomenon, and the story of how an army of women swept on to shop floors is a fascinating one. Dr. Pamela Cox presents this three-part series following the journey of the shopgirl from an almost invisible figure in stark Victorian stores, to being the beating heart of modern shops. With retail the biggest private sector employer in the UK today, this series charts how shopgirls have been central to Britain's retail revolution and at the cutting edge of social change.
Runtime: 60 minutes
Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter - Margaret Bondfield - Netflix
Margaret Grace Bondfield (17 March 1873 – 16 June 1953) was a British Labour politician, trade unionist and women's rights activist. She became the first female cabinet minister, and the first woman to be a privy counsellor in the UK, when she was appointed Minister of Labour in the Labour government of 1929–31. She had earlier become the first woman to chair the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Bondfield was born in humble circumstances and received limited formal education. After serving an apprenticeship to an embroidress she worked as a shop assistant in Brighton and London. She was shocked by the working conditions of shop staff, particularly within the “living-in” system, and became an active member of the shopworkers' union. She began to move in socialist circles, and in 1898 was appointed assistant secretary of the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks (NAUSAWC). She was later prominent in several women's socialist movements: she helped to found the Women's Labour League (WLL) in 1906, and was chair of the Adult Suffrage Society. Her standpoint on women's suffrage—she favoured extending the vote to all adults regardless of gender or property, rather than the limited “on the same terms as men” agenda pursued by the militant suffragists—divided her from the militant leadership. After leaving her union post in 1908 Bondfield worked as organising secretary for the WLL and later as women's officer for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (NUGMW). She was elected to the TUC Council in 1918, and became its chairman in 1923, the year she was first elected to parliament. In the short-lived minority Labour government of 1924 she served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Labour. Her term of cabinet office in 1929–31 was marked by the economic crises that beset the second Labour government. Her willingness to contemplate cuts in unemployment benefits alienated her from much of the Labour movement, although she did not follow Ramsay MacDonald into the National Government that assumed office when the Labour government fell in August 1931. Bondfield remained active in NUGMW affairs until 1938, and during the Second World War carried out investigations for the Women's Group on Public Welfare. Despite her years of service to party and union, and her successes in breaking through gender boundaries, she has not been greatly honoured within the Labour movement. According to a later female cabinet minister, Barbara Castle, Bondfield's actions in office had brought her close to betrayal of the movement.
Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter - Books - Netflix
A Life's Work (autobiography): London, Hutchinsons 1948. OCLC 577150779 What Life Has Taught Me (contributor with 27 others): London, Odhams Press 1948. OCLC 222888739
Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter - References - Netflix