Campaigns for equal pay in the 20th century

The work of women has not always been recognised in the same way as that of their male counterparts. This is especially evident when we look at issues of pay, domestic work and the gender division of labour. The resources below look at historic moments in the UK which gave rise to campaigns to bring equity and value to women’s work.

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Equal pay and equality legislation

Find out how the 1970 Equal Pay Act came into effect, from women-led strikes by the Ford machinists in Dagenham and at the Grunwick film-processing laboratories in north London to campaigns such as that of the Night Cleaners.

1976–78: The Grunwick dispute

The Grunwick dispute broke out in 1976 over trade union recognition in a photo-processing lab in London, and lasted for two years. Amrit Wilson talks about meeting the women and leaders of the dispute.

Equal Opportunities Commission

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) was a non-departmental public body set up as a result of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. The EOC ensured that these rulings were enforced in the workplace. Rowena Arshad shares her experiences from working there, and how, for her, equal pay was the most important battle to be fought.

The 1980s: Equal pay for work of equal value

Julie Hayward was the first person to make a claim under the 1984 Equal Value amendment. This documentary explores her experience of fighting for pay equal to her male colleagues for work of equal value.

Wages for Housework

The Wages for Housework campaign sought to change how unpaid domestic work, mostly undertaken by women, was viewed and valued. Listen to Ellen Malos discuss the campaign and the gendered division of labour.

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Reproductive rights and the Women’s Liberation Movement

Explore the progress made by the Women’s Liberation Movement in the fight for reproductive rights in the UK.

Banner reading 'Votes for Women'

The campaign for women’s suffrage

In 1918 the Representation of the People Act granted some women the right to vote in parliamentary elections; the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 gave men and women equal voting rights for the first time. Discover how suffragists and suffragettes campaigned for this democratic right.

Rainbow flag outside a house

The fight for LGBTQ+ equality

Learn about the history of LGBTQ+ rights in Britain, and hear about some of the experiences of lesbian women as they navigate policy and societal attitudes.

Black and white line image of 3 women with long hair

Lesbian magazines

*Arena Three* and *Sappho* were two key publications for lesbian and bisexual women in the UK from the 1960s through to the early 1980s. Explore these magazines and their impacts.

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Cropped image from illustrated poster in support of the Grunwick Dispute 1977. It shows a line of women holding placards demanding union access

Remembering the Grunwick dispute

The Grunwick dispute marked a critical moment in labour history in the UK, especially for women and migrant workers. Sundari Anitha and Ruth Pearson look at the events leading up to the dispute and the key figure of Jayaben Desai, and examine its significance today.


Experiences of women in STEM: working in the scientific civil service

On average around 30 per cent of the world’s researchers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) are women. From educational access to negotiating a career in a male-dominated environment, Emmeline Ledgerwood explores some of the influences, opportunities and challenges that defined women’s careers in the scientific civil service during the second half of the 20th century.