The Role of Women in the Glass Industry

Talk for the Contemporary Glass Society to commemorate International Women’s Day 2020

Celebrated each year on 8th March, the 2020 theme was “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow


Historically women have had difficulty finding support in many art mediums. Traditionally: pottery weaving, embroidery, and china painting; female sculptors, metal casting or fabrications were unheard of. Now, in the 21st Century the attitude towards women as artists has changed

Good art has no gender

Women working in glass, face the attitude of handling heavy material at the end of a blowing iron, and in the heat of the glassmaking furnace, as a ‘male macho chore’. Yet many glassmaking activities simulate work in the kitchen: such as slumping, fusing, casting and kiln work. For example, Diana Dias Leao Glass Dresses

Women excelled at painting on glass, stained glass assembly, often undertaken by nuns in convents for their church windows. Women in glass factories were assigned roles of inspecting packing, marking out patterns and later, engraving and cutting, enameling & painting. Was that because because of our ability to work efficiently with patience and attention to detail. Or because we could be paid less!

Since ancient times glass making has been regarded as mysterious, magical even, like alchemy. But we don’t really know which gender of our early ancestors actually made the glass; recorded history assumes men! 5000 years ago when glass was first made, women were considered equal, if not superior, to men,

Celtic Iron Age Britain women were sometimes warriors,  Boudica led the British Revolt against the Romans in 60AD.

It is not impossible that are fore-mothers experimented with glass! But since it is men that have written most of history women were either inadvertently overlooked, or deliberately ignored.


Dudley Archives

The Archives of the Imperial War Museum

Input from: Stan Parry, David Hill of Roman & Georgian Glassmakers.

The publications of: Charles R Hajdamach

D R Guttery; Jason Ellis, Stuart Crystal & Royal Brierley Crystal

Interviews with: June & Eric Wilson, Iris Burgess & Dulcie Harper

Published by Kate Round

My name is Dr Kate Round; I am an outreach presenter and tour guide for Dudley Museum Service In my previous life, I was a research chemist so understand the chemistry of glass having worked on the synthesis of ‘zeolites’ (silica based materials) with my work published in International Journals. I have always lived in the Black Country and have a strong industrial family heritage.

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