Part III: The Role of Women
Introduced by Gurj Kang
“Women served to reinforce the familial control they would have within the Punjab. The arrival of women also brought about the end of an all-male migration pattern and a change within housing tenure, with families initially living in the same houses but having a room each to wanting separate accommodation.
“The concept of the Mother is strong within Punjabi culture as the bedrock of the family, and a figure of veneration, which is clear with the sheer number of portraits that exist in the collection of Bibi Parkash Kaur.
“The role of the Mother was also a key transformation to many, with childcare involving an adaption to new methods of healthcare, services, and even clothing to help them assimilate and have the best advantage. From the pictures seen, it is also clear that there was a real enthusiasm in pushing the children forward in embracing this new life, and all of the new services and amenities available.
“In addition to maintaining the household, the arrival of women helped to re-establish the significance of tradition, with their dress being the traditional Punjabi suit, whereas the males would observe western dress. Within the home, they also brought about the greater proliferation of Punjabi foods and for many the observance of cultural and religious practice.
“Also the women were economically active, and Bibi Parkash Kaur worked at Ridella dresses in Harris Street, Bradford. The role that women played in being workers represented the cultural openness of the Punjabi’s and their ambition to grow economically. Not all families were as open and some would have felt that certain working environments would have been unsuitable for their wives. In these cases, concentrations of workers tended to form where women had shown to have succeeded in finding work. Within this time, this would have been in employment with an already established female workforce.
“It is important to recognise and reinforce the hardiness, the strength of character and the pragmatism as major contributions of these women in cultivating the successful integration and growth of the community.”
Next time: we see what life in the workplace – the mills and warehouses of industrial Bradford – was like for members of the newly-settled community.