Laboratory technician, Rank Laboratories, Denham
Interview: 30 July 2013
Interviewer: Sean P Holmes
Camera: Andrew Dawson
Date of birth: 10 November 1939
Linda Brown’s interview covers a wide range of topics, particularly related to workplace gender relations during her career at the Rank Film Laboratories from 1955 to 2003.
Born in Denham, one of seven children, into a strong Labour family. Her father was a wood machinist, her mother a Labour councillor and JP. Passed the 11+ and attended High Wycombe Grammar School. Aspired to be either a librarian or teacher; constrained financial circumstances meant that university was not an option.
1955: Went to work at Rank Laboratories, Denham where an older brother was already employed. First job in the 16mm pos room where the person opposite trained her. Mostly women in this department; a feeding ground for those that aspired to move to projection and neg cutting. Moves to 16mm projection; work described. Extensive discussion of labs gender hierarchy. Aged 17 contracts TB and is hospitalised; returns to work in the 35mm pos room.
After ten years at Denham Linda gets married, became pregnant and leaves work - with no regrets. Still saw a good deal of her former work colleagues around Denham. Had a second child and runs the church crèche. Takes WEA course in journalism and writing. Intended to train as a nursery school teacher and was offered a place at Uxbridge College but her local authority refused to pay out-of-county fees.
Linda returned to the labs full time in the 35mm projection theatre as her husband assumed childcare responsibilities. Notes with surprise how little things have changed for women. Feels she wants to progress at work. Applies for courses ‘even though women don’t usually apply for these sort of things.’ Describes an interview for health and safety post; doesn’t get the job but is accepted on to a National Examinations Board for Supervisory Studies (NEBSS) course at Wycombe College. Following the death of her husband, her father picks up her boys from school. Becomes foreign versions supervisor; member of the Institute of Industrial Management; attends further courses; takes job of sales manger; describes this male dominated world; moves to customer services.
Other important topics covered include: sexual harassment at work; gender discrimination; work-related social networks; formal relations with management; her involvement in the union and meetings in London; mention of Monica Toye, a Denham shop steward; campaigns for child care and maternity leave; job satisfaction; the role of women in the industry.
Linda died on 24 January 2016
Linda appears in two documentaries:
Women in West London Film Laboratories (Dawson and Holmes), https://historyproject.org.uk/blogs/women-west-london-film-laboratories
Patterns of Inequality: D302/1 A Woman’s Work (Open University, 1975)
(Notes by Andrew Dawson, 5 February 2020)