Researching Welsh women's history

Interested in Welsh Women's History?

Visit our Welsh Women's History resources, or read on to find out more about women's history in our industrial history collections.

The majority of enquiries that we receive fall into two main categories :-

  1. Requests for information on women working in industry especially heavy industry
  2. Requests for information on ancestors.

The museum holds some pictures of women working in the coal industry and tinplate works in the 1870s and 1950s.   There are also photographs of women working in general manufacturing and administration.

The National Museum in Cardiff holds paintings of women working in the copper mines of Anglesey and a depiction of a ‘cinder girl’ at work at the iron works at Dowlais in Merthyr Tydfil in 1840.  The pictures can be viewed on the ‘Gathering the Jewels’ website via the links below. 

Research in women’s history is in a stage of relative infancy,  work in this area only started in earnest in the 1960s-1970s.  Be aware that historical sources can often be found when searching under general headings, a bit of digging around is often required, but can be very rewarding!

The museum does not hold any census records or employment records, these are held in county record offices and archives as listed below.  Our library has holdings of the journal Llafur, some of which include articles relating to women’s history and some books relating to women’s history:

  • Discovering Women’s History by Deirdre Beddoe (Longman, 1998)
  • Out of the Shadows: A History of Women in Twentieth-Century Wales by Deirdre Beddoe (University Of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2000)
  • Women’s Factory Work in World War I by Gareth Griffiths (Alan Sutton, 1991)
  • By the Sweat of Their Brow: Women Workers at Victorian Coal Mines by Angela John (Croom Helm, London, 1980)
  • Our Mothers Land: Chapters in Welsh Women’s History 1830-1939  edited by Angela V. John (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1991)
  • The Visual Culture of Wales: Industrial Society by Peter Lord (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1998) (pages 150-155 especially relevant)
  • Women and Work: Twenty Five Years of Gender Equality in Wales by Teresa Rees (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1999)
  • Campaigning to Close the gap: Celebrating Thirty Years of the Equal Pay Act (TUC, London, 2000)
    A forgotten army : female munitions workers of south Wales, 1939-1945 by Mari Williams (University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2002)

If you wish to consult any of the above, please contact (029) 2057 3500

Some useful websites are:

Here are some important repositories for those researching women’s history. It is worth paying a visit to local record offices and archives as material relating to women’s history can often been found.  Normally these are not in designated sections but will be found under more general headings.

The Women's Library
London Metropolitan University
Old Castle Street
E1 7NT
020 7320 2222

The library holds collections that cover a variety of topics, such as women's rights, suffrage, sexuality, health, education, employment, reproductive rights, the family, and the home. The emphasis is primarily on women in Britain, but some international material is included. The library webpage can be searched by subject and allows collections held at the library to be searched.

Glamorgan Archives
Clos Parc Morgannwg
CF11 8AW
029 20872200

Holds material relating to the women’s liberation movement in Cardiff and papers and photographs from the Women for Life on Earth peace movement.   Also holds company records of Howells Department Store, Cardiff and Ben Evans Department Store from 1900-1960s.   Many women were employed by these companies at this time.

National Library of Wales
SY23 3BU
Tel 01970 632800

Holds the Menna Gallie collection on behalf of the Women’s Archive of Wales.  This contains material relating to the novelist who was born in Ystradgynlais in 1920 and who wrote two novels set in industrial South Wales.

West Glamorgan Archive Service,
County Hall,
Oystermouth Road,
SA1 3SN.
Tel 01792 636589

Holds material relating to the women’s suffrage movement in Wales and the feminist movement in South Wales on behalf of the Women’s Archive of Wales.

Swansea Museum
Victoria Road
The Maritime Quarter
01792 653763

Holds a small collection of artefacts and photographs relating to the suffrage movement in Swansea.

Anglesey Archives
Neuadd y Sir
Ynys Môn  LL77 7TW

Carmarthenshire Archive Service
Parc Myrddin
Ricmond Terrace
Carmarthen  SA31 3DS

Ceredigion Archives
Neuadd y Sir,
Marine Terrace,
Aberystwyth. SY23 2HE

Conway Archive Service
Lloyd St.
Conwy LL30 2YG

Flintshire Record Office
The Old Rectory
Deeside Clwyd  LL15 1HP

Glamorgan Archive Service
County Hall
Cathays Park
Cardiff  CF1 3NE

Gwent Archives
Steelworks Road
Blaenau Gwent NP23 6DN
01495 353363

Gwynedd Archives Service
County Offices
Gwynedd LL55 1SA

Gwynedd Archives Service,
Cae Penarlâg,
Gwynedd LL40 2YF0

Pembrokeshire Record Office
The Castle,
Pembs., SA

Royal Commission on the Ancient &
Historical Monuments of Wales

Plas Crug,
Ceregigion, SY23 1NJ
Tel 01970 621200