The collapse of Redcar steelworks has left hundreds of people without jobs, with the predominantly male workforce facing uncertainty in the months ahead.
Their plight has also impacted on wives and daughters – with many able to recall times in past decades when the region’s industry has faced crisis.
Teesside University PhD student Rebecca Saunders is researching the impact of deindustrialisation on the lives of the region’s women to see how unemployment and job uncertainty has affected them.
MA Cultural History graduate Rebecca is looking at the decline of industries across Teesside during the 1970s and 1980s and its impact on the region’s women, framing it within the context of the recent SSI closure. She is completing research as part of a PhD funded by the Arts Humanities Research Council.
While there has been research into the region’s industrial decline, it has largely centred on the impact on the male workforce and Rebecca is keen to highlight the many stories of women affected by the fallout.
Rebecca, 23, from Norton, said: “It is equally important to understand how the lives of Teesside women were affected by the decline of our industries, which is the aim of this research project. I want to understand how grandmothers, mothers and wives supported their families and communities in these times of struggle.
“The closure of the SSI steel plant in Redcar marks the end of an era on Teesside, but this is not the first time our region has been affected by industrial decline. The 1970s and 1980s was a period when our region experienced severe unemployment and uncertainty.
“I want to learn about how the aspirations of daughters and young women were affected by the lack of employment opportunities in the region. I want to discover how women employed in Teesside industries were affected by decline and closures. I would like to build up a picture of Teesside in the 1970s and 1980s through the voices of our women.”
Rebecca added: “Having grown up in Teesside I knew this region had suffered, but I was not aware of the full picture. I have always been interested in learning about our region’s past, especially through the everyday stories of its people.”
While Rebecca primarily hopes to hear from women who felt the impact during the 1970s and 1980s as wives and mums of those affected by industrial decline, she is also keen to hear from women then aged in their teens and are now coping as wives and mums of those hit by the latest crisis.
Rebecca added: “This region has experienced a lot of hardships, but I do not want to paint us as victims. This episode is an important piece in our region’s history and it would be a mistake to think it is better off forgotten. I hope to find stories of strength and perseverance in difficult times in order to help future generations to fully understand the past.
“Some people may feel that their memories are not worth telling, but they are very important. If we do not act now to preserve these memories, they will disappear forever. We have lost a lot of our industry; do we want to lose our story too?”
Rebecca is keen to hear from women who have links to Teesside’s steel, shipbuilding or chemical industries, either through their own employment or male relatives. She can be contacted at Rebecca.Saunders@live.tees.ac.uk.