Sunday, 30 November 2008

Happiest of Birthdays Edith!

Edith Kent, the first woman in Britain to be given the same wages as her male colleagues, is 100-years-old today and I wish her the happiest of birthdays.

Edith worked as a welder in a Devonport dockyard in Plymouth during the Second World War. Due to her only being 4 feet 11 inches tall, she was able to crawl inside torpedo tubes (not a job I'd want thank you very much). She spent most of her days inside torpedos welding.

When she started in 1941, she earned £5 6s per week. In 1943, she got a pay rise and earned £6 6s. At the time, a male manual worker earned a lot less £5 8s 6d. This at the time was totally unheard of.

Edith says she is extremely proud of her achievement but also embarrassed by it. She says: "I got the job because my brothers worked at the dockyard and they thought I would be good at it. I was the first woman to work as a welder there. It made me a bit uncomfortable that I was the first woman to earn the same as the men - and in some cases I was earning more than them. All the men I worked with were marvellous and they didn't seem to mind me earning the same. None of them ever dared say it, but I think they knew I was worth as much as them, if not more." I'm sure you were Edith.

In 1942, she took time off work to have her only child and then soon went back to work, leaving the baby to be cared by one of her sisters. Edith continued to work at the dockyard until 1945, when the male workers returned from the war. She then took up a job as a barmaid instead. The Government ran a major campaign at getting women out of the workplace and into the home (namely the kitchen!) to give up their jobs for the returning men.

We tend to think of divorce as a modern phenomenon but after the war had finished the divorce rate was at an all time high of 64%

Edith has celebrated her 100th birthday today with a tea dance at a hotel with 50 family and friends, including her older sister Minna, who is 105.

Edith sure is a pioneer of her time and I think gives true meaning to " Girl Power". We've still got a long way to go but it's thanks to women like Edith who have helped us along the way.

3 comments:

~wicked~ said...

bravo and happy birthday to Edith...what an accomplishment!

~wicked~ ;-)

Dawn on MDI said...

This tradeswoman tips her welding helmet in the direction of Dame Edith... What a marvel she was (and is!) She broke ground that has allowed me to do the work I do for a living without harassment or discrimination. Thanks for sharing her story!

Margo Moon said...

Happy Birthday, Edith!

I wish my grandmother were still here for me to read this to. Born in 1900, she did "man's work" during the war and then remained in her job until retirement. I doubt she got paid what the men did, though. I never knew what she made.