Postwomen: The Oldham Experiment

An article from Oldham Local Studies by Roger Ivens.

At the end of June 1915 the experiment was made of employing women for the collection and delivery of letters in Oldham. It was undertaken with the double object of replacing enlisted postmen for whom suitable male substitutes could not be found, and of releasing for enlistment the eligible postmen who remained. Initially six women were employed drawn from the offices of the Oldham Labour Exchange from the War Register, which enrolled women volunteers for work usually undertaken by men.

They have been specially selected for their physique. But even so, there were obvious inequalities which called for lighter work and easier districts than are assigned to postmen. Women’s shoes are not adapted to the paving conditions of Central Oldham, nor is a woman-carrier normally at all equal to the demands of the hills, even though the load has been reasonably lightened. Consequently their rounds have been laid for the most part in the more level and open districts. Consequently, too, it is said, though they are employed for the same number of hours as the men – 48 in the week – they receive a somewhat smaller wage. The women take the three war-time deliveries and the one collection regularly allotted to a postman: but they are not employed in delivery-sorting, on station work, or on Sunday work, which counts as overtime. Nor are they required to do late night-work, their duties being over by 8.30.

For initiation into those duties they were on the first two days accompanied on their rounds by the postmen, who have done everything in their power to assist the experiment. The women are distinguished by a red-and gold armlet, and for wet weather are provided with waterproof cape and waterproof skirt.

On 24 June 1915 three women went out with postmen on rounds in Chadderton Road district to the Rifle Range, Roundthorn Road and Abbey Hills, and the Ripponden Road district.

At present the arrangement is too tentative for judgement to be passed on it. It is essentially a war measure, and must be judged as such.

postwomen pic

Oldham Postwomen outside Oldham Post Office in Greaves Street, March 1919 [Oldham Local Studies and Archives is based in the building]

 

Sources:

Oldham Chronicle

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