Women's Work in England and Wales 1600-1914
This course traces the changing nature of women’s work, and the social and economic factors that shaped their employment opportunities and earnings. Why was women’s work mainly low paid, and how did this begin to change before World War I?
During the seventeenth century, women were actively involved in the household economy, producing both for home consumption and for sale. We will explore how women’s work was affected by the growth of commercial agriculture, manufacturing and trade, and the expansion of waged employment outside the home. We will also look at the impact of the Victorian belief that a woman’s place was in the home, before the emergence of the ‘new women’ who sought financial independence or personal fulfilment in more skilled and professional jobs in the later nineteenth century.
We will investigate the type of work performed by women in the major sectors of female employment – agriculture, textiles, and domestic service – as well as their roles in a wider and sometimes surprising range of industries and services. Regional factors that influenced women’s employment opportunities will also be explored.
Background reading and websites will be recommended and there will be an optional opportunity for you to carry out a small research project.