'Working-Class Novelists 1930-1950’ - Howard Slater’s research pamphlet - catalogues British male novelists. He describes it as an invaluable list that ‘the history of literature overlooks but gives an insight into working-class life and culture that is not available elsewhere.’ Slater’s research not only brings to the fore forgotten or undervalued writers but also highlights the apparent men-only world of working-class novelists, together with the lack of books by working-class women.
Subsequent academics embarking on the historical study of working-class women’s writing have found a fundamental obstacle to their research is the problem of its apparent non-existence.
In ‘Were there no Women? British Working-Class Writing in the Inter-War Period’, Rebecca O’Rourke, attests to the male monopoly on authorship in the 1930s and complains that it is impossible to debate or discuss working-class women’s writing simply because there is so little evidence of it.
Merylyn Cherry echoes O’Rourke regarding the lack of working-class women writers. In ‘Towards a Recognition of Working-Class Women Writers’, she notes the lack of historical British working-class women writers on her degree course. Furthermore, the feminist movement and feminist literary criticism do not recognise them either. Cherry argues that although there were women in the writers’ lives and in the books that made the tradition of working-class writing, and although there were working-class women in literary life, they are generally ignored in critical texts and literary representations. For example, a common theme of working-class writing is unemployment. And women were substantially workers; but, in the novels, men are the unemployed, and unemployment does not happen to women.
Since working-class literature affords invaluable insight into working-class life and culture, a male-only perspective gives a distorted and misrepresentation of reality.