Labour History Review

'We Sang Ourselves Through That War': Women, Music and Factory Work in World War Two

Labour History Review (2005), 70, (2), 185–214.

Abstract

This paper examines the role of music in women's experience of factory work in the Second World War — an important topic but one largely overlooked in the existing literature. Two important forms of music flourished in war factories — the relaying of Music While You Work through loudspeakers, and the collective singing of workgroups. Drawing on a range of sources, the paper shows that music served to both express and create community in the workplace, and came to be seen as an anthropological necessity for survival in the context of exposure to repetitive and monotonous labour. The music also expressed a complex mix of simultaneous accommodation and resistance to women's position in munitions factory production. A key motif in women's musical cultures was autonomy, suggesting important continuities with the autonomous texture of other shopfloor cultures in Britain in the middle of the twentieth century. The widespread nature of women's singing also has important implications for how we understand the history of music in British workplaces.

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Details

Author details

Korczynski, Marek

Robertson, Emma

Pickering, Michael

Jones, Keith