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Gender and work in the nineteenth century

1. Why did legislators believe that women working in factories and mines were in need of protection?

2. Account for the continuing importance of home-based work for women.

3. Did women’s employment as domestic servants necessarily exacerbate the patriarchal structure of gender relations?

4. Were the employment opportunities for women in the last half of the nineteenth century a real advance for equal opportunities?

Core reading

Louise Tilly and Joan Scott, Women, Work and Family

Sally Alexander, ‘Women’s Work in Nineteenth-Century London: A Study of the Years 1820-60s’ in Sally Alexander, Becoming a Woman

Kathryn Gleadle, British Women in the Nineteenth Century, chs. 1, 4, 7 and 10

Jane Humphries, ‘Women and Paid Work’ in Purvis (ed) Women’s History: Britain, 1840-1945

Jane Lewis, Women in England 1870-1950, chs 4 and 5

Factory and mine workers

R Gray, ‘Factory legislation and the Gendering of Jobs’, Gender and History (1993)

Sophie Hamilton, ‘Images of Femininity in the Royal Commissions of the 1830s and 1840s’ in Eileen Yeo (ed), Radical Femininity: Women’s Self-Representation in the Public Sphere (Manchester, 1998), pp. 79-105

Angela John, By the Sweat of their Brow

Judy Lown, Women and Industrialisation, chs 1-3

J Mark-Lawson and A Witz, ‘From Family Labour to Family Wage’, Social History (1988)

Sonya Rose, Limitied Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England, chs 2, 3 and 7

Deborah Valenze, The First Industrial Woman

Home workers

D Bythell, The Sweated Trades

Angela John (ed), Unequal Opportunities

S. Rose, Limitied Livelihoods, ch. 4

J Schmiechen, ‘Sweated Industries and Sweated Labour’ in E. P. Thompson and Eileen Yeo (eds), The Unknown Mayhew: Selections from the Morning Chronicle


Leonore Davidoff, ‘Mastered for Life: Servant Life in Victorian England’, Journal of Social History (1974)

Leonore Davidoff, ‘The Family in Britain’ in Thompson, F.M.L (ed), The Cambridge Social History of Britain, vol. 2

John Gillis, ‘Servants, Sexual Politics and the Risks of Illegitimacy’ in Newton, Judith (ed), Sex and Class In Women’s History: Essays from Feminist Studies

Bridget Hill, Women, Work, and Sexual Politics, ch 8

Pamela Horn, The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant

D A Kent, ‘Ubiquitous but Invisible’, History Workshop Journal (1989)

Amanda Vickery, The Gentleman’s Daughter, ch. 4

Giles Waterfield and Anne French (eds), Below Stairs: 400 Years of Servants’ Portraits, Introduction, chs. 2, 5, 10

Employment in the late nineteenth century

Leonore Davidoff, ‘The Separation of Home and Work?’ in Burman (ed), Fit Work for Women

Lee Holcombe, Victorian Ladies at Work

A.J. Hammerton, ‘Feminism and Female Emigration, 1861-1886’ in Martha Vicinus (ed) A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women

Angela John (ed), Unequal Opportunities

Patricia Levine, Victorian Feminism, chs. 4 and 5

P E Malcolmson, ‘Laundresses and the Laundry Trade’,Victorian Studies (1981)

Martha Vicinus, Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women, 1850-1920 , chs. 1, 3, 4

Frances Widdowson, ‘Educating Teacher: Women and Elementary Teaching in London’ in Davidoff and Westover (eds), Our Work, Our Lives, Our Words

Measuring the female workforce

Higgs, Edward. ‘Women, Occupation and Work in the Nineteenth-Centuries Censuses’, History Workshop Journal, 23 (1987)

Hill, Bridget. ‘Women, Work and the Census: A Problem for Historians of Women’, History Workshop Journal, 35 (1993)

Horrell, Sara and Humphries, Jane. ‘Women’s Labour Force Participation and the Transition to the Male-Breadwinner Family, 1790-1865’, Economic History Review, 48 (1995)