[Skip to content]

.

Women in the Glass Industry

Women in the Glass Industry

Stourbridge has been a major glassmaking centre for 400 years and there is still a flourishing industry today. 

Women in the Glass Industry celebrates the role of women past, present and future.

Visitors to the exhibition will discover which events and individuals shaped the course of women's advancement in society and the workplace. Learn which women were trail blazers in the male dominated field of glass.

Stuart & Sons staff decorate glassware, Gentleman's Journal, 1902
Decorating glass at the Red House Glass Cone, 1902

In the 19th century a woman's place was in the home; domesticity and motherhood were considered to be a sufficient emotional fulfilment for females.

The transformation of Britain into an industrial nation during the Industrial Revolution (1750-1840’s) had profound consequences for the ways in which women were idealised. Locally many women found roles in the glass industry. Work was predominantly in packing, etching and washing. 

The glass industry changed a great deal between the wars.

The product needs of 1939, compared to 1914, were far more specialised. The changeover to wartime production was immense. Across the UK women begin to work in roles previously deemed unsuitable. Those working at Stuart Crystal produced aircraft landing lights, cathode ray tubes, valves for radar and electronic equipment, and chemical equipment.

Today there are over 1000 glass artists practising in the UK, approximately half of which are female.

Artist Terri Colledge
Artist Terri Colledge

Read interviews and first hand accounts of women who have worked, and are still working, in the glass industry.

Extract from Terri Colledge interview:

"I didn’t start in glass, when I left school at 16 I went straight to an enamel company – Bilston enamels...

In 2001, and by chance, I knew of a glass studio, Okra Glass, that needed an enamel painter...

...Having not followed a traditional route, I always feel thankful to Richard for giving me that initial opportunity, I definitely felt like I was in the right place at the right time." 

Read the rest of Terri's account in the exhibition

Glass items made by Gray-Stan inc. purple vase
A collection of Gray-Stan items

Elizabeth Graydon-Stannus  (1873-1961)

Born 1873, in Ireland, Elizabeth grew up to become an Irish Antique glass dealer and founder of the luxury modern glass company Gray-Stan (1926 – 1936).

In 1922 Elizabeth established her first glassmaking studio in Kennington, London which specialised in reproductions.

In 1925 she was elected as a fellow to the Royal Society of Arts.

Elizabeth is seen as an enigma in the glass world. She created a vibrant, timeless collection of glass with a small team, a set-up that foreshadowed the Studio Movement of the 1960s, yet invited controversy with her reproductions of antique Irish glass. Ultimately, she was ahead of her time; a women with progressive ideas, a true trailblazer.

Visit the exhibition to learn more about Elizabeth and other trail blazers.

If you can't visit the exhibition, why not book one of our fabulous Outreach Officers to visit your group?

The Role of Women in the Glass Industry. Outreach offer

The White House Cone - Museum of glass is custodian of many thousands of pieces of glassware reflecting the skills and artistry of glassblowers, designers, and decorators from the Stourbridge area for over 400years. It reflects the industrial efforts from such world-renowned makers as Richardsons, Stuart Crystal, Royal Brierley Crystal and Webb Corbetts. Yet how many pieces in the collection have been produced solely by women?

Within those hot working factory conditions, it was said that the only limitation to the glass-blower’s art is ‘the strength in his arm’ and the hot shops were considered at be an all-male environment, women were not allowed. Archive sources and ladies who worked in the glass industry have uncovered a fascinating account of this 'glass ceiling'.  From the 1860's to the present day. This is a revealing account of changing attitudes and the struggles between Unions, Management and workers to allow women to do 'men’s work'.

Heritage Lottery Funding logo