Their accounts document their struggles to overcome discrimination and disadvantage to rebuild their lives in the book, Migrant Women's Voices: talking about life and work in the UK since 1945. They describe their journeys, their lives after migration, and the world of work in factories, hospitals and care homes, banks, hotels, shops, universities or driving buses. All the stories were collected between 1992 and 2012 and their female perspective challenges conventional histories and geographies of post-war change in British society. They relate stories of dispossession, hunger, violence and rape, but also the joy of rebuilding lives, establishing families and forging new ties with the community into which they settle. 'In the increasingly rancorous debates about the impact of migrants and possible Brexit, women migrants are seldom heard,' Professor McDowell says.
The book includes stories of female refugees who came to Britain at the end of World War II; of the boat people from Vietnam; the migrants from Pakistan and India after independence; those expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin; and refugees who sought sanctuary after the Balkan war at the end of 1990s. Jewish women were given a home and work in the 1930s; and women and men from the Baltic States were transformed from asylum-seekers into what were termed 'European Volunteer Workers' and employed to assist in the post-war reconstruction efforts. Others featured include refugees after the Hungarian crisis in 1956, and East African people of South Asian heritage who came over in the mid-1960s.