Sunday, July 20, 2008

Victorian Women Worked Long and Hard


Many men & women saw their jobs taken over by the factory system ... so they moved out of the country to the cities to continue to work. There was a steady stream of migration from the country to the towns and cities.

1820-1870: northeast USA transitioned from agrarian to industrial culture ... this shift from mercantile centers to manufacturing centers prepared the way for urban life

Census Data

1790 = 5% of all Americans lived in urban center

1860 = 15% Americans in cities (35 urban areas had populations over 25,000)

Wealthy Women
...As one might expect did not work, except for mistresses of wealthy men. I dunno where the myth got started that women did not work for gainful employment ... Reality is we would have worked ... and worked LONG and HARD ...

Female Occupations

authors, journalists, inventors, teachers, domestic service, mill work, factories, foul smelling breweries, dressmaking / needlework / shirt-makers / underclothing trades (which took 2nd place to men in these trades); milliners, hatters, glovers, hosiers, straw bonnet makers, collar-makers, tailors, patten-makers and shoe-makers, boot-makers, lapidaries, embroiderers, lace-makers and lace-joiners, gaiter-makers, furriers, curriers, feather-workers, running pawn shops and other shops, etc.

Girl Apprentices
Girls were apprenticed out (if you ever have the opportunity to read the Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series, you will see the Victorian Miss Marple continuing to teach young girls how to work so they can provide for themselves in the world); girl apprentices could be in workshops or by individuals in modest homes or by the extremely wealthy.

Long Hours and Hard Labour

Working hours were long and pay was low for women like it was for men. In 1862 a female journalist warned ... ‘All who are wise will avoid this profession, because such numbers crowd into it, that the competition drives the payment down to a point below that at which life can be sustained.’ [See: Boucherett, J., (1862) On the Choice of a Business] During an 1834 tailors' strike ... women flooded in to meet the demand.

I'll come back later and address how preachers in the Chicago area demanded that employers give women a decent working wage so they would not have to resort to prostitution in order to provide for their families.

~ from the notes of Lady Victorian Historian