Cotton industrial colonies were one of the most characteristic phenomena of the industrial revolution in Catalonia. Most of them appeared between de 1860s and 1890s and tended to be located along the courses of the Llobregat, Ter and tributary rivers, using water as a source of energy for spinning and ... (Show more)
Cotton industrial colonies were one of the most characteristic phenomena of the industrial revolution in Catalonia. Most of them appeared between de 1860s and 1890s and tended to be located along the courses of the Llobregat, Ter and tributary rivers, using water as a source of energy for spinning and weaving cotton.
The importance of these factories lies in the specificity of the productive, business and social model that they developed, in which the labour, social and family spheres converged on the same site. On the one hand, the owners of these establishments, which were located far from existing population centres, had to build accommodation for their workforce and provide a number of services in order to attach labourers to their workplace. On the other hand, particularly in response to episodes of intense worker unrest in the late nineteenth century, the industrialists behind these riverside factories, in search of social peace, began to engage in a set of paternalistic practices whose aim was to control the entire life of their workers.
Although there is an extensive bibliography linked to the study and analysis of the world of the industrial colonies in Catalonia, most of the cases deal with the demography and gender issues in a superficial way. Taking in mind that women were the main workforce in these establishments, there is still a long way to go to understand what role they played and what importance they had both in the configuration of family and workspaces and in the personal trajectories of these women who lived and worked in this very specific context.
On this basis, the aim of this paper is to analyse, based on local sources like municipal enumerators’ books, workers’ censuses and salary sheets of some textile colonies, the labour force participation of the women who lived and worked in the Catalan textile company towns in the early twentieth century.
First of all, with the information obtained by the workers’ censuses, we will focus on the gender division of labour in these labour markets. The objective is to determine the workforce composition and employment structure of the textile colonies, observe the behaviours of female workers and the occupations that they performed. On the second hand, taking in mind the high female activity rates detected in the municipal enumerators’ books of some textile company towns, even in the case of married women, it will be discussed which strategies adopted the families who were living inside these colonies in order to combine productive and reproductive work. When and why women tended to stop working in this specific labour market? In third place, with the wage information collected from the salary sheets, an approach will be made to the importance of the female salaries on the total family income of the most common family typologies in the textile colonies.
The results of this research could contribute to the ongoing projects about the paper of women to Catalan industrialization.
"This article forms part of the Project ‘HAR2017-84030P: Mundos del trabajo en transición (1750-1930)’. Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad, PI: Cristina Borderías Mondéjar. This Project is linked to the Research Group “Work, Institutions and Gender (TIG)”, SGR2017-1258, University of Barcelona" (Show less)