Two for the price of one: a qualitative study of the lives of mining wives

Two for the price of one: a qualitative study of the lives of mining wives Thesis

School of Social Science, Curtin University of Technology

  • Author(s): Rhodes, L.D.
  • Published: 2001
  • Publisher: Curtin University of Technology
  • Volume: PhD

Abstract: The resources sector has historically fostered mining as a masculine enterprise, The resulting marginalisation of wives has guaranteed a particularly female experience of the mining lifestyle. Focussing on the wives of men in the professional ranks of a mining career, this thesis explores, from a feminist perspective, the manner in which the structural and ideological frameworks of the resources sector impact upon the lives of women. The project challenges the traditional male- centred story to argue that mining is, in fact, a two-person career The structural impediments of resources recovery combine with conservative management policies and gendered career practices to create an occupational context in which the work of women is an integral component of corporate success. Mining companies thus routinely employ two for the price of one. The story of men and mining is well known, extensively researched and prolifically published. In contrast, the experiences of the wives who have accompanied and supported mining engineers in their pursuit of professional acclaim have received scant attention. The specific objectives of this thesis are therefore, threefold. Firstly, the project seeks to redress the gender balance within the story of mining. By giving prominence to the personal stories of mining wives themselves, the voices of women are heard throughout the text and new visibility and importance are attached to their presence and participation. By so doing, the male dominance of the industry is contested, thus creating not only a new history of the mining industry but also a new history of women. Secondly, the experience of being an incorporated wife is explored in the context of resources recovery. The study reveals the status of mining wives to be both ambiguous and insecure. Though their unpaid labour is routinely appropriated for corporate benefit, wives remain excluded from the decision-making that changes their lives and are shaped into an outdated model of family life in which their personal choices, opportunities and autonomy. are curtailed. Thirdly this project seeks recognition from the mining industry, of the role played by wives and appreciation of their presence, participation and contribution. It was important for this study, that the voices of mining wives themselves, should be heard. Accordingly semi-structured interviews were conducted with seventy mining wives whose ages ranged across three generations and whose experiences covered many decades of mining history. Their personal narratives and life histories provide much of the data for this work. Although the research was based in Western Australia, the global nature of the mining industry means that the collective experience of the participating wives is eclectic, diverse and comprehensive. The feminist focus of the study highlights the interactive and cumulative nature of the disadvantage imposed by the mining lifestyle on women and reveals that despite their significant contribution, wives are routinely excluded from industry consciousness.

Notes: The study involved semi-structured interviews with seventy mining wives (ages ranging across three generations) and whose experiences covered many decades of mining history. The research was based in Western Australia. The feminist focus highlights the interactive and cumulative nature of the disadvantage imposed by the mining lifestyle on women and reveals that despite their significant contribution, wives are routinely excluded from the industry consciousness.

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Suggested Citation
Rhodes, L.D., 2001, Two for the price of one: a qualitative study of the lives of mining wives, Volume:PhD, Thesis, viewed 10 August 2022, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=4409.

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