Between 1880 and 1914, there was a widespread public debate about the threat of women’s work to their bodies, reproductive abilities and the future of the race. Stimulated by a series of sensational stories in the new journalistic press, this debate included politicians, doctors, working men and diverse feminist organisations. In response, the government enacted special legislative measures, known as dangerous trades regulations, to protect women and their unborn children in the white lead and pottery trades. This book explores this debate and places it within the context of the new journalism, medical theories about lead poisoning and women’s bodies, the rise of labour, and the expansion of feminist activism. Most significantly, it demonstrates how ideas about sexual difference decisively shaped the construction of these important measures. This led to a gendered definition of dangerous work, one that negated evidence about unsafe working conditions that posed a threat to both working women and men. It also led to the introduction of practices that resemble what we today call ‘foetal protection’. Dr CAROLYN MALONE is associate professor of history at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana.
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