20th June 1924. Electricity for Woman.
The first Director of The Women’s Electrical Association (WEA) was Caroline Haslett an engineer who had worked for the Cochran Boiler Company in WWI.(1)
The WEA came out of the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) which Council decided Today to accept the idea to: ‘enquire into the possibility of carrying out the objectives of the paper’, presented by a Mrs M. L. Matthews.
Her idea was for an Association for women which by promoting the wider use of electricity in the home, drudgery could be taken from housework especially as servants were becoming scarce.
She had offered this in a paper to the Institute of Electrical Engineers who thought it not technical enough, and the British Electrical Development Association couldn’t see any applicability.
However Lady Parsons a founder of WES organised a meeting in November 1924 to form the Electrical Association which attracted the attention of Haslett.
It resulted in an Association set to increase the development of women’s interest in the domestic uses of electricity.
WEA was renamed the following year as the Electrical Association for Women (EAW) with Haslett as Director until 1956.(2)
The first branch opened in Glasgow in 1925 with the slogan, ‘Emancipation from Drudgery’, the aim being to give women information about the new electrical technology becoming available, and how this could aid more efficient domestic, working practices.
Mrs Matthews claimed it was while haymaking on a farm in WWI that an ‘old hand’ told her that the work could be made ‘hard or light’, later she saw women working ‘hard’ when it could be ‘light’ by using electricity in the home.
Haslett showed how women could be independent as reported by the Westminster Gazette, when ‘Miss All-Alone’, at a time when more single women had left the secure home to live in small flats in London, showed how with a friend she could wire up to the meter. Don’t try this at home!(3)
This new scientific approach it was suggested reinforced women’s role in the house by using the prestige of male dominated sciences. Thus was the way prepared for Domestic Science in schools.
The Author remembers in the 1960.s reading the local paper advertising meetings of the EAW and how women and electricity seemed a mismatch.
The Association voluntarily dissolved in 1986 owing to dwindling numbers, the time for ‘reflection’ offered by the ideals of pre-war ‘scientific household management’ being superseded by the urge for a wage packet.
By the 21st century women’s role and her liberation in society, though helped by domestic technology, went side by side with the acknowledgement of equality and its realisation in legislation.
(1) The WEA’s first Council Meeting was on 16.12.1924.
(2) The WEA changed its name to EAW to avoid confusion with the Workers Education Association. Its first HQ was in Kensington, London, 1927-1933.
Lady Parsons was wife to the inventor of the steam turbine.
(3) Reported 21.8.1925.
Ref: sites.google.com/Electricity and Women, The EAW in Inter-war years/Pic.
Ref: theist.org/Pic of Pub 1931.