Female Workers in the Spanish Mines, 1860–1936

Citation:

Pérez de Perceval Verde, Miguel Á., Ángel Pascual Martínez Soto, and José Joaquín García Gómez. 2020. “Female Workers in the Spanish Mines, 1860–1936.” International Review of Social History 65 (2): 233–65. 

Authors: Miguel Á. Pérez de Perceval Verde, Ángel Pascual Martínez Soto, José Joaquín García Gómez

Abstract:

This article analyses female labour in Spanish mines during the golden age of the sector in Spain between 1860 and 1936. Although they were a small percentage of total employment, women accounted for a significant share of the workforce in certain Spanish districts. On the one hand, the study quantifies work performed directly by women, who were mostly engaged in preparation and concentration of the minerals, as well as the extent of female child labour. This has been done by using official statistics, analysing the share of women employed for each type of mineral extracted, the mining area where this activity took place, and other variables. In the article, the authors seek to identify possible causes of such a heterogeneous distribution of female labour in the mining industry in Spain. This situation was common in the sector throughout the world. On the other hand, the article analyses attitudes of institutions, unions, and the like that limited employment opportunities for women in mining (banning them from performing underground tasks and other activities) and even proposed excluding them altogether, responding to workers’ demands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We examine the objectives pursued by these institutions, which in some cases related to protection (physical and moral) of female workers but overall aimed mainly to preserve the social role of women (particularly reproduction) and exclude them from the workforce. The pressure on female workers was the most pronounced in the workplace. These factors gave rise to a global setback in female employment, especially among the youngest workers. Given this situation, the quantitative data used, together with information drawn from different sources, reveal that women resisted giving up these jobs, particularly in the districts with a larger share of female workers.

Topics: Extractive Industries, Gender, Gender Roles, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Hierarchies Regions: Europe, Southern Europe Countries: Spain

Year: 2020

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