. 11
( 14)


Apothecary £50“200 £100 1825 a
Baker £100“500
Bookseller £500“5000
Butcher £20“100
Chemist £500“1000 £300 1825 a
Engine maker £500“2000 £500 1817 b
Grocer £500“1000
Haberdasher £100“2000 £500 1819 c
Lace-man £1000“10,000
Milliner £100“1000 £100 d
Shoemaker £100“500
Weaver £100“500 £300 1750 e
£500 1850 e

Sources: Campbell, The London Tradesman.
a. The Book of English Trades and Library of the Useful Arts (London: G.B. Whittaker, 1825).
b. Crouzet, The First Industrialists.
c. The Times, February 8, 1819.
d. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes.
e. J. de L. Mann, The Cloth Industry in the West of England (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971).

workman was not likely to earn more than a pound a week, it was
dif¬cult for a worker to save enough to go into business for himself. If
women found it more dif¬cult to obtain capital because of gender dis-
crimination, then the access to capital was one method whereby gender
roles constrained women™s work opportunities.
During the Industrial Revolution, many entrepreneurs found it dif¬-
cult to obtain capital. The capital on which the Industrial Revolution
was based came mainly from pro¬ts, which owners plowed back into
their ¬rms.28 Initial set-up capital generally came from personal wealth
or partnerships. Loans were so hard to obtain that some hopefuls were
reduced to advertising in The Times:
Any Gentleman or Lady who can immediately advance from £1500 to £2000 may
join the Advertiser (and not wanted to take an active part) in an INVENTION
much required by government and public work, and will be certain in a few years
to produce a very large fortune.29

Fran¸ ois Crouzet, Capital Formation in the Industrial Revolution (London: Methuen,
1972), p. 172.
The Times, January 14, 1819.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 283

Capital was dif¬cult to obtain, not because savings were inadequate,
but because the capital market did not adequately channel those savings
to industry. Postan described the capital market of the Industrial
Revolution thus:
The insuf¬ciency of capital was local rather than general, social rather than
material . . . The reservoirs of savings were full enough, but conduits to connect
them with the wheels of industry were few and meagre.30

The imperfect capital market constrained both men and women.
The question related to women™s work opportunities is not whether
capital requirements were a constraint on those wishing to start their
own business, but whether gender discrimination caused women to have
greater dif¬culty obtaining capital than men. Since the capital market
worked on a personal level, gender discrimination was unconstrained by
competitive forces and could prevent women from having equal access
to capital. Family decisions also reduced women™s access to capital,
through the types of money they inherited. A more institutional and
competitive capital market would have bene¬ted women as well as
bene¬ting economic growth.
The personal nature of the capital market allowed gender discrimination
to operate. During the Industrial Revolution, capital was raised mainly
through two methods “ personal wealth and informal credit markets.
Formal credit markets were less well developed and lent conservatively.
Banks preferred to lend short-term trade credit rather than long-term
capital.31 Even for short-term credit, the “very personal nature of private
banking” may have resulted in discrimination against women.32 Informal
borrowing required a wide range of personal acquaintances and may
have been hampered by personal discrimination. If loans were personal
decisions based on subjective judgments, gender discrimination could
easily have prevented women from having the same access as men.33

M. M. Postan, “Recent Trends in the Accumulation of Capital,” in Fran¸ ois Crouzet,
ed., Capital Formation in the Industrial Revolution (London: Methuen, 1972), p. 71.
L. S. Pressnall, Country Banking in the Industrial Revolution (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1956), pp. 304, 326, 335.
Ibid., p. 296.
Female entrepreneurs experienced credit discrimination in the US in the 1970s. In a
survey of female entrepreneurs, Schwartz found that “the initial and major barrier
experienced was felt to be credit discrimination during the capital formation stage.
Many of the responding female entrepreneurs said credit was denied just because they
were women.” Eleanor Brantley Schwartz, “Entrepreneurship: A New Female
Frontier,” Journal of Contemporary Business 5 (1976), pp. 47“76. Unfortunately, her
title is misleading; female entrepreneurs are not new.
284 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Women did not enter partnerships with men and generally lent business
capital rather than borrowing it.34
An important constraint on married women was the fact that, when
they married, all their wealth became the property of their husbands.
While a married woman could operate as feme sole and contract debts,
her ability to use her capital to start or expand her own business
depended on the consent of her husband. Thus, a married woman was
vulnerable to gender discrimination because she depended completely
on the will of her husband. A husband who did not want his wife to
engage in trade could prevent her from doing so by withholding capital.
Gender discrimination could thrive in the family, which was not subject
to competitive forces. Even trusts, which were often set up to keep the
husband from gaining access to the wife™s money, did not help because
this method of protecting the wife™s money did not allow her to use it as
capital.35 The differential treatment of real and personal property
encouraged women to hold more of their wealth as real property, which
was less useful than personal property as business capital. Combs has
shown that women married after the Married Women™s Property Act of
1870 held a substantially higher fraction of their wealth in personal
property rather than real property.36 This shift was a response to pro-
visions of the act that increased women™s ownership rights over personal
property. Before 1870, then, the law encouraged women to hold their
property in forms less useful for entrepreneurship. To the extent that
married women were disadvantaged in their access to capital, it was
because of limitations arising in the law and in the family rather than
in the market.
Widows and single women were not under couverture; they could own
property and dispose of it as they wished. The question is then whether
they did own property. Unmarried women sometimes owned substantial
amounts of property, but women still owned less property than men. An
1846 list of the eleven chief landowners of Denton, Lancashire, includes
two women. With over 312 acres, Miss Mary Woodiwiss was the second
largest landowner in the parish. Mrs. Mary Cooke owned much less,

Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, ch. 4.
See Joan Perkin, Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England (London:
Routledge, 1989).
Women married before 1870 held 56 percent of their wealth as real property, while
women married after 1870 held only 25 percent of their wealth as real property. Mary
Beth Combs, “˜A Measure of Legal Independence™: The 1870 Married Women™s
Property Act and the Portfolio Allocations of British Wives,” Journal of Economic History
65 (2005), pp. 1028“57.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 285

only twenty-one acres.37 Larger samples, however, suggest a smaller
percentage of women landowners. In the mid-nineteenth century, only 4
percent of Suffolk landowners were women.38 Also, it is not clear
whether these women held this property in trust. If women were given
property in trust, they received the income from it, but they were not
free to use it to start a business.
The most important source of capital was inheritance. Here widows
had the advantage, since they usually inherited their husbands™ busi-
nesses. Widows were common among the ranks of businesswomen,
often heading the businesses they inherited from their husbands. Of the
thirty-nine women listed in a 1791 business directory for Coventry,
nineteen were speci¬cally designated as widows.39 Single women also
frequently inherited capital, but as we have seen they usually received
their capital in trust. The trust protected the capital from future hus-
bands, but also prevented the woman from using the capital in a busi-
ness venture. Thus, single women were handicapped by the kinds of
property they inherited. Again, this type of gender discrimination
operated through the family rather than through the market.
To examine whether capital requirements were a factor in determin-
ing which occupations women followed, we might ask whether women
were less likely to appear in trades requiring more capital. For an esti-
mate of capital requirements, I turn to Campbell™s The London Trades-
man, originally published in 1747.40 Because of the date of this book, the
capital estimates may not accurately re¬‚ect capital requirements in the
later Industrial Revolution. However, comparisons of Campbell™s capital
estimates with other estimates presented in Table 6.2 suggest that
Campbell™s numbers are reasonable. Comparing Campbell™s estimates
to insurance records from the late eighteenth century, Schwarz con-
cludes that “they compare quite well, but suggest that Campbell™s own
¬gures were on the high side.”41 If Campbell did systematically over-
estimate capital requirements, that would not necessarily mean the
relative rankings were incorrect, and it is the relative rankings of the
trades that are of interest.

John Booker, “A History of the Ancient Chapel of Denton,” Remains Historical and
Literary connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester, The Chetham
Society, vol. 37, 1861.
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 276.
The Universal British Directory, 1791. Of the remaining twenty women, six had the title
“Miss,” four had the title “Mrs.” and ten had no title.
Campbell, The London Tradesman.
L. D. Schwarz, London in the Age of Industrialisation: Entrepreneurs, Labor Force and Living
Conditions, 1700“1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), p. 65.
286 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

In Table 6.3 I examine whether women were less likely to own
businesses in high-capital trades. Since we want to examine business
ownership, I use percent-female ¬gures from commercial directories.
Retail trades with high turnover required the least amount of capital.
Retail trades with valuable goods or low turnover required more.
Wholesale trade or large manufacturing enterprises required still more
capital. Women were least likely to own businesses in industries
requiring large amounts of capital, such as manufacturing or brewing,
suggesting that capital may have been a constraint. Note, however, that
women are not completely shut out of even the most capital-intensive
occupations; a relatively high portion of silk mercers women were. In
Manchester in 1824 and 1846, women were more likely to own china
shops than earthenware shops, though the former required more
capital. If access to capital was an important force excluding women
from trade, then the correlation should be negative. Correlations
between the capital requirements of a trade and the percentage of
business owners who were female (presented in Table 6.4) are generally
negative, but are not statistically signi¬cantly different from zero. While
the availability of capital may have had some effect on female employ-
ment, the relationship is not strong or simple enough to produce a strong
Access to capital, however, may have been important in a few cases.
Limited access to capital contributed to the disappearance of women
brewers. In the middle ages, women were often brewers. The “alewife”
commonly brewed beer on a small scale from her home. Brewing seems
to have been a common female trade. Lacey notes that in early London,
“One father left his daughter the lease of brewhouse for eight years, at
the end of which she was to keep ¬ve quarters of malt to set herself up in
business to support herself.”42 In the town of Abingdon, many widows
were able to support themselves by making malt.43 By the Industrial
Revolution, however, brewing was a male trade. Manchester had no
female brewers in 1788 or 1824, and only ¬ve in 1846. In the 1841
census, only 2 percent of brewers were female.44 One factor contributing
to this was a change in the scale of brewing operations. What had been a
relatively small-scale operation became a large-scale, capital-intensive
industry. In the eighteenth century, a technological innovation, the
“porter revolution,” increased the size of breweries. In the mid-eighteenth

Lacey, “Women and Work,” p. 51.
Barbara Todd, “The Remarrying Widow: A Stereotype Reconsidered,” in Mary Prior,
ed., Women in English Society, 1500“1800 (London: Methuen, 1985), p. 78.
BPP 1844 (587) XXVII.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 287
Table 6.3. Percent female compared to capital requirements


Capital Birm. Derby
requirement 1788 1824 1846 1850 1850

Large capital
Merchant Unlimited 1.7 0.0 0.4 0.0 0.0
Cloth manufacturer 1.5 0.2 1.1 “ 0.0
Brewer £2000“10,000 0.0 0.0 6.0 0.0 0.0
Coal factor £1000“10,000 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.9
Lace-man £1000“10,000 0.0 0.0 3.6 “ “
Silk mercer £1000“10,000 11.8 28.6 4.8 “ “
Wool stapler £1000“10,000 0.0 0.0 11.1 0.0 “
Medium-high capital
Linen draper £1000“5000 35.1 8.4 13.0 7.2 0.0
Timber merchant £1000“5000 6.7 3.6 0.0 0.0 0.0
Woollen draper £1000“5000 11.8 0.0 4.8 0.0 0.0
Medium capital
Hosier £500“5000 17.6 5.9 19.6 30.8 12.5
Chemist/druggist £500“2000 12.5 2.0 2.8 2.1 3.8
Grocer £500“2000 5.6 8.7 3.7 5.1 3.2
Ironmonger £500“2000 12.5 9.5 4.9 1.8 0.0
Pawnbroker £500“2000 0.0 22.1 13.9 20.7 25.0
China shop £300“2000 25.0 22.2 12.0 12.5 5.3
Tea shop £300“1000 22.2 23.5 22.8 13.0 66.7
Bookseller/stationer £100“5000 0.0 8.3 6.7 4.7 0.0
Tobacconist £100“5000 33.3 5.9 17.3 4.4 0.0
Haberdasher £100“2000 0.0 16.7 8.0 31.7 12.5
Hatter £100“1000 6.3 6.3 3.6 0.0 6.7
Milliner £100“1000 100.0 100.0 95.3 97.8 100.0
Small capital
Baker £100“500 7.7 9.6 6.1 7.0 8.5
Dyer £100“500 6.4 4.1 5.4 57.1 5.6
Confectioner £100“300 37.5 35.7 32.2 18.5 25.0
Earthenware shop £100“300 “ 11.8 9.3 26.7 5.3
Fruiterer £50“500 20.0 22.2 12.8 8.4 10.4
Music shop £50“500 0.0 0.0 14.3 4.3 “
Calenderer £50“100 11.4 7.4 9.8 “ 33.3
Last maker* £50“100 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Butcher £20“100 2.9 “ 8.5 3.7 1.7
Large capital 2.0 0.5 1.5 0.0 1.1
Medium-high capital 23.2 5.8 9.5 4.5 0.0
Medium capital 21.4 16.0 25.0 43.6 38.5
Small capital 9.0 10.6 10.0 9.1 6.7

* A last is a wooden form used for making shoes.
Sources: Campbell, The London Tradesman; Lewis™s Manchester Directory for 1788; Pigot and
Dean™s Directory for Manchester, 1846; Slater™s Royal, National and Commercial Directory, 1850.
288 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain
Table 6.4. Correlation of minimum capital requirements with the percentage of
business owners who were women

Location and date Rank correlation N P-level

Manchester, 1788 0.038 93 0.715
Manchester, 1824-5 “0.034 92 0.744
Manchester, 1846 “0.051 105 0.604
Birmingham, 1850 “0.071 72 0.551
Derby, 1850 “0.002 109 0.981

Sources: Campbell, The London Tradesman; Lewis™s Manchester Directory for 1788;
Pigot and Dean™s Directory for Manchester, 1825; Slater™s National Commercial
Directory of Ireland, 1846; Slater™s Royal, National and Commercial Directory, 1850.

century, the leading London houses brewed 55,000 to 60,000
barrels each.45 While women commonly owned small shops, they
rarely owned large, capital-intensive businesses, so women ceased to be
While capital requirements most likely played some role in limiting
women™s opportunities, they do not seem to be a major determinant of
the gender division of labor because capital requirements cannot explain
the pattern of occupational sorting. To the extent that women were shut
out by their lack of capital, this constraint arose from discriminatory
inheritance practices within the family and discriminatory lending in the
informal credit market. The personal nature of the institution sheltered
gender discrimination which a more impersonal market would not have
allowed. Women were vulnerable to gender discrimination because they
were not protected by the competitive market.

IV. Education
Women were also handicapped by their lack of education. As noted in
Chapter 2, girls did not have the same access as boys to schooling. As a
result, women trailed behind men at all levels of education. Women
were less likely than men to be literate, or to have learned mathematics
or Latin. Women were not admitted to universities, and women who
acquired advanced education were either taught by tutors or relatives or,
occasionally, were self-taught. Catherine Macaulay, an eighteenth-cen-
tury historian who wrote History of England from the Accession of James I to
the Elevation of the House of Hanover, a popular history text in dissenting
academies, was “privately and largely self-educated.”46 She seems to

45 46
Crouzet, The First Industrialists, p. 27. Hill and Hill, “Catherine Macaulay,” p. 382.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 289

have acquired much of her education by reading books from her father™s
library. Such women, however, were rare.
To some extent, women™s lack of human capital was a rational investment
choice. Since they would spend less time in the labor force, girls would
receive lower returns from education than boys. To some extent, however,
women™s low human capital levels re¬‚ect discrimination in families and in
schools themselves. Families may have made their investment decisions
based on gender roles rather than the expected returns of the investment.
Also, many schools discriminated against women by not admitting them.
Even those women who wanted to could not attend grammar schools or
universities. Some women found alternatives, but many did not.
Lower levels of education prevented women from entering some
occupations. To some extent this lack of education re¬‚ects differences in
productivity. Women could not be employed as teachers in grammar
schools if they had no training in the classics. However, to a large extent
this barrier was arti¬cial. Independent of its effect on human capital,
lack of formal education handicapped women by preventing them from
gaining an important prerequisite for many professions. Even if they
could acquire knowledge and skills, women did not have the right cre-
dentials for professional employment. A liberal education at one of the
best grammar schools and at a university was a sign of social standing
and was used as an entry requirement even though it provided little or
no practical training. The requirement of a liberal education indirectly
excluded women, since women were excluded from the schools which
provided that liberal education. To a large extent, university education
was an arti¬cial constraint imposed by professional organizations to limit
entry. A degree from Oxford or Cambridge was a requirement for entry
into the professional elite. The Royal College of Physicians, for example,
admitted only graduates of one of these two universities.47 Women, of
course, could not attend them. This method of exclusion affected other
groups besides just women; Catholics and dissenters were also excluded
from Oxford and Cambridge. Limited access to education, then, was a
tool used by professional organizations to limit access to their profes-
sions. Here again we see the importance of the economic motivation in
erecting barriers to women™s employment opportunities.

V. Professionalization
Professionalization is the organization of an occupation to increase its
status and income. It works mainly through excluding those practitioners

Reader, Professional Men, p. 16.
290 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

deemed inadequate. Since exclusion is a central part of professional-
ization and the profession itself decides who may enter, this process is an
ideal opportunity for gender discrimination. Like unions, professional
organizations found it to their advantage to exclude potential competi-
tors. The process by which professionals increase their incomes is
described by Perkin:
When a professional occupation has, by active persuasion of the public and the
state, acquired suf¬cient control of the market in a particular service, it creates
an arti¬cial scarcity in the supply which has the effect of yielding a rent, in the
strict Ricardian sense of a payment for the use of a scarce resource.48

By limiting the supply of its service, a profession can obtain a monopoly
rent. As noted in the previous discussion of trade unions, gender
ideology made women a natural target for exclusion.
Though similar to unions in their motives for the exclusion of women,
the professions used different methods. Because professionals were less
likely to work for an employer, their exclusion operated through training
and certi¬cation requirements rather than through rules imposed on
employers. Professionals convinced consumers that only those certi¬ed
by the professional organization could provide adequate services. This
gave the profession control over entry to the occupation, through cer-
ti¬cation. If a license was required in order to practice, exclusion of
women was very simple. They were simply not given licenses. Women
could also be effectively barred from the profession if a university edu-
cation was required, since they were not allowed into the universities.
Professionals, like unions and unlike employers, gained from limiting the
labor supply. Thus, professional organizations had both the desire and
the opportunity to exclude women.
Unlike the trades, professional employment was an individual rather
than a family activity. While the wife of a tradesman could help her
husband with his business, the wife of a lawyer could not. Thus, one
important avenue for female participation was cut off. Women did not
work beside their husbands, and widows did not carry on the family
business. This was probably an important reason why the professions
were able to exclude women completely while few trades were able
to do so.
Professional groups could exclude women from membership in the
profession, but they could not always prevent women from offering the
same services. Where women practiced the professions, it was because
they could compete with the elite, not because they were accepted as

Harold Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 7.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 291

part of the elite. This was particularly true in medicine, where physicians
were exclusively male but still faced competition from females. To
protect their monopoly, physicians had to convince their patients that
only those accepted by the profession were capable. Organized churches
also faced a competitive fringe which included women preachers.
Though professional groups could bar women from membership in their
profession, they did not automatically have a monopoly; they had to
convince the consumer that those sanctioned by the profession offered a
superior product. If people believed that physicians educated at uni-
versities were superior to those without such education, then the
opportunity for competing providers was limited. When the of¬cial
professionals could convince their customers to hire only from the elite
sanctioned by the professional organization, women were excluded.
The Industrial Revolution period was an important time for the
professions. They formed their identities and consolidated their power.
The upper tiers, the barristers and physicians, had held effective power
for some time. For the lower tiers of the professions, such as the attor-
neys and the apothecaries, the early nineteenth century was a time of
gathering professional power. The lower tiers organized to improve their
standing, setting up hurdles to keep out undesirable elements, including
women. As with unions, limits on labor market competition explain the
success of gender discrimination.

A. Law
Lawyers maintained a tight professional organization and effectively
prevented women from joining them. There were two types of lawyers,
barristers and attorneys. Barristers were the more elite group, with ¬rmly
established professional power. Attorneys were less strongly profes-
sionalized in the eighteenth century, but they consolidated their power
over the course of the Industrial Revolution.
Barristers had the most exclusive professional organization. They had
a monopoly on the right to plead in court. They were organized into four
private clubs in London, the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court had
complete control over whom they admitted and thus who could plead.
They had so much power that they could exclude attorneys from the
Inns of Court and thus maintain a strict division between the two types
of lawyers. The exclusionary power of the barristers was ¬rmly estab-
lished by the eighteenth century and remained so thereafter.
Attorneys were one rung down the ladder from barristers. They organ-
ized over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centurles and became
a more exclusive group. In the early eighteenth century, the attorneys™
292 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

professional organization was weak; an of¬cer of King™s Bench “admitted
that a great many practised as attorneys who had never been sworn, but
maintained that there was no power to prevent them.”49 The government
helped them limit their numbers by the Act of 1729, which laid down
apprenticeship and examination requirements for attorneys. An appren-
ticeship of ¬ve years and an examination before a judge were required
before someone could practice as an attorney.50 Entry was limited by the
restriction that no attorney could have more than two clerks at once.51
Throughout the eighteenth century, the professional societies of
attorneys were local. The Society of Gentlemen Practisers operated in
London, and a few provincial centers such as Bristol and Yorkshire
had their own law societies. These began to exercise some control over
who was allowed to practice. In 1725 the Society of Gentlemen
Practisers succeeded in preventing William Wreathock, who had been
convicted of highway robbery, from practicing as an attorney.52 The
society also defended the attorneys™ right to practice from a challenge
by the law scriveners.53 In the early nineteenth century, attorneys
organized on a national scale; the Law Society was formed in 1825.
The Law Society furthered the professionalization of the profession. In
1836 it convinced the judges to make the entry examinations more
than perfunctory. For the ¬rst time, a candidate had to show know-
ledge of the law in order to be admitted as an attorney.54 In 1843
parliament gave the Law Society the duty of registering attorneys (now
called solicitors).55
Since entry to the profession required the consent of the professional
organizations, women were effectively excluded. Table 6.5 shows that
no women were listed as barristers or attorneys in either the 1841 or the
1851 census. The only evidence I have found of a woman practicing law
is in the 1846 commercial directory for Manchester, which lists Sarah
Clarke as an attorney.56 Most likely Sarah managed to practice in spite
of the profession, and not with its blessing. Barristers could prevent
unrecognized people from pleading in court, but since attorneys worked

Robert Robson, The Attorney in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1959), p. 11.
Ibid., p. 12.
E. B. V. Christian, A Short History of Solicitors (London: Reeves and Turner, 1896), p. 111.
Robson, The Attorney in Eighteenth-Century England, p. 23.
Reader, Professional Men, p. 30. 54 Christian, A Short History of Solicitors, p. 181.
Ibid., p. 217.
Slater™s National Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846. There were 215 attorneys and 13
barristers in the town. The fact that Sarah was not counted as an attorney in either the
1841 or the 1851 census may be due to the fact that she practiced only a short time, or
may be due to the inaccuracy of the censuses.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 293
Table 6.5. Professional employment in the censuses

1841 1851 1871

Occupation M F M F M F

Attorney, solicitor 14,657 0 13,013 0 13,854 0
Barrister 2,373 0 2,816 0 3,580 0
Midwife 0 1,384 0 2,024 0 2,215
Physician 1,476 0 1,771 0
Surgeon, apothecary 18,658 0 17,419 0 19,198* 0
Clergyman 14,613 0 17,320 0 20,694 0
Minister 8,930 0 6,405 0 9,264 0
Missionary 2076 1,185
Schoolmaster/mistress 22,384 32,403 19,329 39,619 19,378 38,774
Governess 0 20,058
Other teachers 3,970 988 8,640 7,232 13,523 55,465

* Physicians and surgeons.
Sources: BPP 1852“3 (1691) LXXXVIII; 1873 (872) LXXI.

as advisors, they found it harder to shut down the unlicensed practi-
tioner. I have found no other exceptions; law was a completely male
profession. Both medicine and the church had a larger group of people
operating outside the professional organization and thus more women.
Attorneys were able to keep such tight control over their profession
because they maintained effective barriers to entry.

B. Medicine
Before the Industrial Revolution, women practiced medicine both as
midwives and as surgeons or apothecaries. In the sixteenth century women
were allowed to join the Barber-Surgeons™ Company.57 In the late six-
teenth century ten of the seventy-three medical practitioners in Norwich
were women.58 As medicine became more professionalized, though,
women found their opportunities for medical practice limited. They had
always provided medical care, but as medicine became a formalized
profession they were excluded. Women continued to practice medicine,
but unof¬cially, and at a much lower level of status and earnings.

Margaret Pelling and Charles Webster, “Medical Practitioners,” in C. Webster, ed.,
Health, Medicine, and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1979), p. 174. See also Abram, “Women Traders in Medieval
London,” p. 278.
Pelling and Webster, “Medical Practitioners,” pp. 222“3.
294 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Physicians, technically members of the Royal College of Physicians,
were the most elite group of medical men. They were university edu-
cated rather than apprenticed, and only graduates of Oxford and
Cambridge were admitted to the Royal College. This effectively
excluded women, who were not admitted to Oxford or Cambridge. The
Royal College of Physicians kept such tight control over entry that there
were relatively few physicians; most medical practitioners were surgeons
or apothecaries rather than physicians. The lower tiers, however, also
formed their own organizations to limit entry and increased their power
during the Industrial Revolution period. Surgeons and apothecaries
entered their trade through apprenticeship rather than through a uni-
versity. Their organizations were the Company of Surgeons (which
became the Royal College of Surgeons in 1800) and the Society of
Apothecaries. Both organizations were livery companies of London,
organized as guilds.59
Over the course of the Industrial Revolution, the surgeons and
apothecaries consolidated their professional power by gaining control
over who could practice. The most important event was the Apoth-
ecaries Act of 1815, whereby the government recognized the authority of
the Society of Apothecaries to grant licenses, including the power to
prevent unauthorized persons from calling themselves apothecaries.60 A
license to practice as an apothecary required a ¬ve-year apprenticeship,
plus coursework and an examination.61 Another important step came
later in the century with the Medical Act of 1858, which established a
single national register for all practitioners considered quali¬ed.62 The
tightening of licensing requirements made it easier to exclude women,
either simply for being female, or because they did not have the “proper”
One aspect of the increasing professionalization of medicine was the
growing importance of formal training. Knowledge gained through
practical experience was not considered as valuable as knowledge gained
from a formal education. In 1819 the Apothecaries™ Company took a
man to court for practicing the trade without authorization. The argu-
ments in court emphasized his lack of book-learning. We learn from
The Times:
At Stafford Assizes a cause was brought on at the suit of the Apothecaries™
Company against the son of a man who had been originally a gardener, but who
had long exercised the business of a cow-leech and quack-doctor; the son claiming

Reader, Professional Men, p. 32. 60 Ibid., p. 51. 61 Digby, Making a Medical Living.
Magali Sarfatti Larson, The Rise of Professionalism (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1977), p. 95.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 295

a right of following the profession of an apothecary, through having studied under
his renowned father. In the cross-examination of the father by Mr. Dauncey, he
was asked if he had always been a surgeon? The witness . . . at last said, “I am a
Surgent.” Mr. Dauncey asked him to spell this word, which he did several times,
viz. “Syurgent,” “Surgend,” “Surgunt,” “Sergund.” Mr. Dauncey said, “I am afraid
Sir, you do not often take so much time to study the cases which come before you
as you do to answer my question” . . . Witness said, he never employed himself as
a gardener, but was a farmer till he learnt his present business. Mr. Dauncey said,
“Who did you learn it of?” “ “I learnt it of Mr. Holme, my brother-in-law; he
practiced the same as the Whitworth doctors, and they were regular physicians”
. . . “Do you bleed from the vein or from the artery?” “From the vein.” “There is
an artery somewhere about the temples; what is the name of that artery?” “I do
not pretend to have so much learning as some have” . . . The Jury almost instantly
returned a verdict for the plaintiffs.63

Those who had learned medicine from practical experience but were not
associated with the professional organizations, and thus did not know
the correct names of the arteries, were deemed incapable of practicing
medicine. Women generally fell into the category of those who received
little formal training and got their knowledge through experience.
A woman usually learned midwifery from another midwife, much
like the Stafford man had learned the apothecary™s trade from his
brother-in-law. Since women were not admitted to the universities, this
emphasis on formal training prevented women from gaining professional
status in medicine.
The professionalization of medicine allowed men to enter and dom-
inate the traditionally female specialty of midwifery. For centuries,
midwives were highly skilled, highly respected women who received
good wages. The profession was once exclusively female; Lacey notes
that in the middle ages “the profession of midwife was barred to men, as
men were not allowed to be present when a child was born.”64 In the
seventeenth century, men had entered the profession, but midwives
could still ¬nd clients who could pay well. In 1613 Robert Loder hired a
midwife. He was a farmer, and could afford to pay the midwife 20s., ¬ve
times the usual weekly wage of one of his farm laborers.65 At this time
male doctors did not necessarily have higher status than midwives. In
1680 the wife of Sir John Foulis was attended by both a doctor and a
midwife for her lying-in, but the doctor was paid only two-thirds what
the midwife was paid.66

The Times, April 6, 1819. 64 Lacey, “Women and Work,” p. 49.
Fussel, Robert Loder™s Farm Accounts, p. 89. However, Loder was a successful farmer,
and the midwife was no doubt paid much less by her poorer customers.
Clark, Working Life of Women, p. 280.
296 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Men could easily deny women the title of physician, but it was
somewhat harder to convince women giving birth to hire a higher-paid
male physician in preference to a female midwife. Beginning in the
seventeenth century, however, the male medical profession began to
eliminate midwives by taking over their work. Improvements in the use
of the forceps, which men used and women did not, gave men a per-
ceived technological advantage, even though forceps were often used
when not needed.67 Men also emphasized their superior education.
Alice Clark notes that “the policy of doctors, with some exceptions, was
to withhold instruction from the midwives on whom the poor depended,
lest their skill should enable them to compete with themselves in practice
among the wealthy.”68 The medical profession also attacked women
directly, with the same vigor that they attacked the “uneducated.”
Women were said to be too delicate for the duties of a doctor. By some
inexplicable twist of logic The Lancet, the major publication of the
profession, claimed that only a man could “brave . . . the revolting
scenes of childbirth.”69 Such denunciations were not reasoned argu-
ment, but part of a territorial dispute over whether women would be
allowed into the solidifying medical profession.
By the early nineteenth century, men had gained the better-off cus-
tomers, leaving only the poor for the women. Female midwives generally
served only the poorer classes and thus were less well paid. Eden notes
that in the 1790s poor families paid 5s. for a midwife.70 This price was
about half the weekly wage of an agricultural laborer, and much less than
the 20s. that Robert Loder paid his midwife in 1613.71 It is dif¬cult to
say how much of this price difference was due to the social status of the
client, and how much represented a change over time. By the Industrial
Revolution the midwife had not disappeared, though she may have
suffered a loss of status and pay, as those who could afford to pay more
often chose male doctors instead.
The transformation of the profession is illustrated by the change in
terminology. In the eighteenth century, a man was called a “man-mid-
wife,” a term which suggests that female practitioners were still the
norm. By this time, however, female midwives were relatively rare. The
1788 directory for Manchester includes only one female midwife, and

Digby, Making a Medical Living, pp. 261“2.
Clark, Working Life of Women, p. 285.
The Lancet, August 3, 1868, p. 117, quoted in F. B. Smith, The People™s Health, 1830“
1910 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1979), p. 380.
Eden, State of the Poor, vol. II, pp. 74, 234.
Fussel, Robert Loder™s Farm Accounts, p. 89. Twenty shillings was about ¬ve times what
Robert Loder paid his agricultural laborers.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 297

eight “man-midwives.” Later the occupational title man-midwife dis-
appeared, in favor of surgeon and physician. Male practitioners were no
longer men practicing as midwives, but surgeons or physicians practicing
their own trades. Midwives also disappear from the commercial direc-
tories; they still existed, but their status was so low that they were not
recognized as professionals.72 Midwives did the same work as doctors,
but by the nineteenth century they ended up serving only the poorer
classes, for lower pay. This transformation illustrates how men could
de¬ne a profession in their own terms and successfully exclude women.
Although their number was diminishing, women still practiced various
forms of medicine in the late eighteenth century. They were found,
however, in the lower-paid branches. The physicians, who had the
tightest professional control, prevented women from entering at all.
A few women did practice as surgeons or apothecaries, though not with
the approval of the professional organizations. Margaret Gorman is
listed as an apothecary in an 1846 commercial directory of Glasgow,73
but the ¬rst woman admitted to the Apothecaries Society, Elizabeth
Garrett, was admitted in 1865.74 Even then, however, the license was
granted grudgingly. Women continued to provide medical services,
though, outside the formal medical organizations. They could still
provide medical care if they could compete against the male profes-
sionals in the open market. Wyman gives examples of payments made to
women for cures in the eighteenth century, but notes that “during the
eighteenth century, the status and importance of surgeonesses steadily
declined.”75 To the extent that opportunities were based on the market
rather than formal organizations, women could enter these occupations.
However, the male professionals directed much of their effort to con-
vincing the customers that medical practitioners not approved by the
profession were quacks and not capable of providing medical services.
Women could practice if they could circumvent the professional
organizations and operate in the open market. However, if practice was
limited to those accepted by the profession, women were excluded.
As with other types of work, we must question whether cultural
statements actually re¬‚ect employment. The distinction between male
and female practitioners was more related to status than to what work
was performed. Table 6.5 shows that in the censuses of 1841 and 1851
the medical profession is completely segregated; men were physicians

In the 1851 census, midwives were grouped in the same class as domestic servants,
nurses, and charwomen. BPP 1852“3 (1691) LXXXVIII.
Slater™s National Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846.
Reader, Professional Men, p. 175. 75 Wyman, “The Surgeoness,” pp. 37“8.
298 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

and surgeons, women were midwives. The difference in status is clear; in
the 1851 census, midwives are grouped with domestic servants, rather
than with professionals. However, these cultural categories hid the fact
that some of the men were doing the same work as the midwives. Both
men and women delivered babies. However, the men were called
physicians or surgeons and were given high status and high pay, while
the women were called midwives and were given low status and low pay.
While women continued to work as midwives, they became invisible
because their status declined. In the 1824“5 directory of Manchester, no
midwives are listed in the directory of tradesmen, but the description of
the Lying-In Hospital lists twenty-four midwives working alongside
seven men-midwives, one physician, and one apothecary.76 There were
female midwives in Manchester, but their status was too low for these
women to be listed in the commercial directory.
Women™s opportunities to practice medicine were clearly limited by
barriers erected by the professional organizations. As in other cases, men
found that they could bene¬t economically from limiting entry to their
occupation. To the extent that women did continue to practice medi-
cine, it was because they could compete for customers in the open

C. The church
The more institutionalized a church, and the more professionalized its
clergy, the less likely it was to allow women leaders. At one extreme was
the Church of England, the most conservative, which ordained its ¬rst
female priests in 1994.77 At the other extreme were the Quakers, who
have no formal paid clergy and were always at the forefront of allowing
women to lead. The Quakers had a number of well-known women
preachers, such as Susanna Green and Sara Grubb.78 Even here,
though, when the Quakers began to keep lists of their preachers, the use
of women decreased.
In the early days of puritanism, women, though not of¬cially recog-
nized by the church, preached, founded churches, and wrote pamph-
lets.79 As the new sects were of¬cially organized into churches, however,
women were no longer given the freedom to carry on these activities.
Davidoff and Hall note that, while women were important in many
revival movements, “where such movements outgrew their enthusiastic

Pigot and Dean™s Directory for Manchester, 1825, p. 277.
Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1994, sec. 1, p. 3.
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 138. 79 Shiman, Women and Leadership, p. 15.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 299

origins and became more bureaucratic, the women were usually
pushed to the margins.”80 Professionalization of the clergy squeezed out
This progression can be observed in the Methodist Church, which
during the Industrial Revolution was the main opposition to the estab-
lished Church of England. When the movement was new, female
preachers were relatively common. John Wesley was not in favor of
women preaching, but when Mary Bosanquet and Sarah Crosley,
important leaders in the movement, insisted on preaching, he reluctantly
allowed it. In a 1771 letter to Sarah Crosley, Wesley wrote:

I think the strength of our Case rests there in your Having an Extraordinary Call.
So I am persuaded has every one of our Lay-preachers; otherwise I could not
countenance his preaching at all . . . Therefore I do not wonder, if several things
occur therein which do not fall under ordinary Rules of Discipline; St. Paul™s
ordinary rule was “I permit not a woman to speak in the Congregation”: yet in
Extraordinary Cases, he made a few exceptions: at Corinth in particular.81

In 1787 a conference of Methodists accepted the principle of women
preaching. As long as the Methodists remained a lay movement within
the Church of England, women preachers were allowed. When the
Methodist Church was created in 1794, however, it created its own
of¬cial clergy, and women were soon excluded. While women could be
tolerated as lay preachers, they were not allowed into the professional
clergy and soon their preaching was silenced. In 1803 a conference in
Manchester decreed that a woman could only preach if she had an
“extraordinary calling,” and then only to women™s groups. Eventually,
the Methodists rejected all lay preachers, and the clergy was completely
professionalized. One sign of the professionalization of Methodist min-
isters was the adoption of the title “Reverend” in 1818. Perhaps more
tellingly, they also asked for higher salaries.82 As a result of the move to a
professional clergy, the Methodists ceased to have female preachers.
A few splinter groups refused to join the of¬cial Methodist Church, and
these groups continued to have women preachers. The major sects to break
off from the Methodist movement were the Independent Methodists
(1796), the Methodist New Connexion (1797), the Primitive Methodists
(1812), and the Bible Christians (1815).83 In 1818 one-¬fth of the

Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 107. 81 Shiman, Women and Leadership, p. 22.
Deborah Valenze, Prophetic Sons and Daughters: Female Preaching and Popular Religion in
Industrial England (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985), p. 20.
Ibid., p. 21.
300 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Primitive Methodist preachers were women.84 In his memoirs James
Hopkinson recalls:
Of my early religeous impressions I may say I was not more than 5 or 6 years old
[c. 1825] when a Lady preachess came to a primitive Methodist chapel near to
where I lived. And as a great favor my Mother let me go to the service. That night
young as I was the spirit of God was stiring in me.85

Women continued to preach, and continued to move their listeners, but
only in the marginal sects.
As in medicine, the few women who worked in this profession were
not acknowledged by society and thus remain largely hidden from the
historian. An example is Mary Barritt, later Mrs. Zachariah Taft. A
charismatic preacher, she played an important part in the Yorkshire
revival of the 1790s. However, her obituary in the 1851 Methodist
Magazine made no mention of her preaching. The obituary only noted
that she was the “widow of the late Rev. Zachariah Taft” and that “For
many years she had been ˜a mother of Israel™.”86 The church that she
had helped to build did not acknowledge her contribution. As in the
other professions, the women who fought the barriers set up against
them remained largely invisible.

D. Teaching
Teaching is the exception that proves the rule. During the Industrial
Revolution teaching was not organized as a profession, and did not have
licenses or formal entry requirements. Because there were few barriers to
entry, many women were teachers. While teaching in higher education
was closed to women, much of the teaching profession was open to
them. The grammar schools and universities that did not accept girls as
students did not hire women as teachers.87 Other schools, however,
hired women, and many women opened their own schools. While other
professions were characterized by entry restrictions, teaching at the
primary level was characterized by free competition. Since anyone could
open her own school, teaching remained open to women, and even
became one of the few occupations in which women outnumbered men
(see Table 6.5). In an occupation which was governed only by the

Shiman, Women and Leadership, p. 28. Some examples are Elizabeth Moore, Elizabeth
Gorse Gaunt, and Hannah Howe; see Valenze, Prophetic Sons and Daughters, pp. 22, 38,
Hopkinson, Victorian Cabinet Maker, p. 6. Emphasis his.
Valenze, Prophetic Sons and Daughters, p. 64.
See Davidoff and Hall, “The Hidden Investment,” p. 264.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 301

competition, women could thrive. Thus the one profession that did
not have the professional organization to limit entry was ¬‚ooded with
Teachers can be divided into two groups, those who were hired by an
institution and those who were self-employed. Women were prominent
in both groups. Charity schools and national schools hired teachers, and
upper-class families hired governesses. When women were hired as
salaried teachers, they received lower salaries than men. To some extent
the difference in salaries was justi¬ed by men™s greater skills, since
women usually did not teach mathematics, bookkeeping, or the classics,
but some portion of the wage gap may also have been due to wage
Many teachers, however, were self-employed. Small private schools
were often located in the teacher™s house. Private schools covered a wide
social range, from the cheapest working-class schools to the most elite
boarding schools. The incomes of the self-employed teachers varied with
the social class of their students. The women who ran working-class
private schools, sometimes called “dame schools,” were not well paid.
For example, the wife of a Gloucester weaver earned 2s. a week from
running a school; she had twelve students and charged each 2d. a
week.89 Schools for wealthier students had higher fees and produced
larger incomes for the schoolmaster or mistress. Enrollment at a girls™
boarding school might cost as much as £100 a year.90 One Warwickshire
girls™ boarding school charged £26.5s. per half-year, but payments for
extra subjects such as dancing and French could triple this amount.91
During the Industrial Revolution period, teaching had no legal bar-
riers to entry. In earlier centuries there had been some restrictions.
During the reigns of Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I, the government
tried to keep dissenters out of teaching by requiring all teachers to be
licensed.92 Even then, many teachers succeeded in evading the
requirement. In the early seventeenth century, the Catholic Margaret
Ford was arrested three times for teaching children, and the high rate of
recidivism implies the restrictions were not very effective.93 By the
Industrial Revolution, however, there were no legal restrictions on entry
into the profession. Easy entry into the ¬eld made teaching an attractive
temporary employment and many treated it as such rather than as a life-
time profession. Men trained for the clergy who could not immediately

Ibid., p. 265. 89 BPP 1840 (220) XXIV, p. 419.
Reader, Professional Men, p. 170. 91 Roach, A History of Secondary Education, p. 117.
O™Day, Education and Society, p. 27. 93 Ibid., p. 170.
302 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

¬nd a position in their chosen profession would commonly take up
teaching while they waited.94
The market for primary schooling was competitive, with free entry
and exit. It was easy to enter the occupation by simply opening a small
school. Janet Bathgate, who was born in Sunderland, Scotland, about
1806, had very little formal education, and experience only as an agri-
cultural worker and a nurserymaid. After her husband died she worked
as a sempstress but was unable to earn enough to live on, so a friend
suggested that she open a school. Janet protested that “I never was six
weeks at a regular school at one time, and I feel that it would be the very
height of presumption for me to pretend or attempt to teach any one.”95
She was convinced to try, though, and succeeded. The ¬rst week she had
nine students, but on Monday of the second week, “It is ten o™clock, the
school door is opened; and to her surprise, instead of nine, she had
eighteen scholars, including two little boys, each carrying a little stool
and twopence for school wages.”96 Janet Bathgate was at the bottom end
of the schooling market, but she did much better as a schoolteacher than
as a sempstress.
Self-employed teachers were subject only to market constraints, and
the success of a schoolmaster or mistress depended on whether he or she
could attract students. Though often looked down on for being mere
babysitters, the schoolmistresses in “dame schools” survived only
because they provided the services their customers demanded. Publicly
funded charity schools competed with dame schools, but many parents
preferred private dame schools to the public schools because the private
schools, placing less emphasis on religion and morals, taught literacy
better. Parents were known to move their children out of public schools
and into dame schools in order to improve their education. In 1861 a
parliamentary investigator reported that:
It is almost the universal opinion of parents that children are taught to read
quicker and better in the dames™ schools than in the lower classes, (particularly if
left to the charge of monitors,) of the public schools. I continually found in the
private schools young children who had been removed from the public schools,
because, as the dames informed me, “they learnt nothing” there.97

Parliamentary investigator Josiah Wilkinson reports that one London
schoolmistress “had children frequently returned to her from public
schools on the alleged ground of expense and bad teaching.”98 Another

Ibid., p. 169.
Janet Bathgate, Aunt Janet™s Legacy to Her Nieces: Recollections of Humble Life in Yarrow
in the Beginning of the Century (Selkirk: George Lewis and Son, 1894), p. 186.
Ibid., p. 188. 97 BPP 1861 (2794) XXI, Pt 2, p. 36. 98 Ibid., Pt 3, p. 376.
Occupational barriers in self-employment 303

schoolmistress “told me very gravely that she had several scholars from
the National schools, because their parents said they learnt nothing there
but clapping hands and singing.”99 Schoolmistresses had to please
parents in order to stay in business, and doing so usually meant ensuring
their pupils™ rapid progress in reading skills.
Teachers who could not compete lost their students and went out of
business, and schoolmasters had no advantage over schoolmistresses in
this regard. In his autobiography, Christopher Thomson notes that,
“anybody could make a schoolmaster . . . to be a school master is one of
the few comfortable trades which require no previous training.”100
However, while Christopher found entry into the occupation easy, entry
did not guarantee success. He soon found that “my school was soon at a
discount; I struggled on for a time, but the school returns were insuf-
¬cient for my family.”101 He blamed his failure on complaints from the
parents that he refused to beat the boys, and taught them poetry instead
of the Bible. His failure may also have been due to his limited skills:
“I could read a little, write a decent hand, and ¬gure simples and a few
compounds.”102 While entry to the occupation was open, success was
not guaranteed. Some private teachers thrived, and some failed, and
success seems to have been determined by ability, not by gender.
Professionalization of teaching did not begin until the middle of the
nineteenth century. In 1846 the government established a certi¬cation
process for teachers.103 However, since certi¬cation was not required,
the market remained open and those without certi¬cates could still
teach. The ¬rst national professional organization, the General Associ-
ated Body of Church Schoolmasters in England and Wales, was formed
in 1853.104 Private schoolmasters and mistresses competed successfully
with public institutions until the 1870s, when the government made
attendance at an of¬cially sanctioned “ef¬cient” school necessary for
obtaining permission to work at the age of ten.105 Until the government
gave speci¬c monopoly privileges to public institutions, independent
teachers thrived and entry into the teaching profession remained open.
Teaching is different from the other professions because increasing
professional restrictions did not reduce the percentage of women in
While primary teaching was competitive, women faced barriers to
employment in higher education; women could not teach at schools for

Ibid., Pt 3, p. 375.
Christopher Thomson, The Autobiography of an Artisan (London: Chapman, 1847),
p. 207.
Ibid., p. 208. 102 Ibid., p. 207. 103 Tropp, The School Teachers, p. 19.
Ibid., p. 51. 105 Gardner, The Lost Elementary Schools, p. 204.
304 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

older boys, and were limited to schools for younger children or for girls.
This restriction did not prevent female teachers from outnumbering
male teachers (see Table 6.5), but it did prevent women from entering
the most highly paid segment of the market.
During the Industrial Revolution, higher education for boys was
closed to women, but the bulk of the teaching market remained com-
petitive, open for all who wished to take up the employment. Success
depended on teaching ability, not on gender. Parents sent their children
to the schools where they received the best education, and women could
successfully compete with men. Since teaching was the only profession
open to women, some women entered it even though they would have
preferred to be elsewhere. Because teaching was open and competitive,
while law, medicine, and the church were closed to women, women
¬‚ocked to teaching, driving down the wages there relative to wages in
other professions. Still, the fact that the teaching profession remained
open ensured that these women could support themselves without
turning to unskilled labor.

This chapter supports two basic claims: that gender discrimination was
strongest when competition was weakest, and that economic motiv-
ations were a more important cause of these barriers than gender
While neither seems to have been the primary determinant of the
gender division of labor, customer discrimination and the law both
allowed gender ideology to have some impact on women™s opportunities.
The legal invisibility of married women had a direct effect on their ability
to conduct business and, probably more importantly, had an indirect
effect on the type of property women inherited, since fathers sought to
protect their daughters™ inheritances from the bad judgment or bad luck
of current or future husbands by giving daughters their inheritances in
the form of trusts. Customer preferences may have created barriers to
women™s employment where customers preferred to be served by males.
No women were hairdressers. To the extent that these factors limited
women™s opportunities, they did so because the competitive mechanism
was blocked. Since households and governments do not go bankrupt
when they discriminate against women, competition cannot eliminate
discrimination in consumer preferences or in the law.
The degree of competition was also important in determining where
women would face barriers to employment within the professions.
Women were more widely employed in professions where the market
Occupational barriers in self-employment 305

was most competitive. At one extreme, the market for primary teachers
was highly competitive, and women out numbered men. At the other
extreme, lawyers were able to effectively prevent competition from
unapproved practitioners, and women were shut out. Both medicine and
the clergy faced a competitive fringe, but were able to keep the bulk of
the market, with the highest status and pay, for approved professionals.
In this chapter we also see the importance of economic motivations in
erecting restrictions on women™s employment. While men may have
appealed to gender ideology to justify their restrictions, this ideology was
easily cast aside when it con¬‚icted with their economic incentives. If
gender ideology was the real motivation, then people should have
applied it more consistently. Instead we observe that where gender
ideology con¬‚icted with the economic interests of a powerful group,
gender ideology took a back seat. One of the most intimate of all
occupations, midwifery, went from gender segregated (female midwives
and female clients) to mixed (male physicians and female clients). Mary
Wollstonecraft noticed this contradiction in 1792:
Women might certainly study the art of healing, and be physicians as well as
nurses. And midwifery, decency seems to allot to them, though I am afraid the
word midwife in our dictionaries will soon give place to accoucheur, and one
proof of the former delicacy of the sex be affaced from the language.106

Though some men expressed concern about the moral implications,
these issues were easily swept aside in order to advance the male pro-
fession. In the most intimate of professions, concerns about the mixing
of the sexes were easily set aside when they con¬‚icted with the economic
interests of a powerful group.

Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, pp. 221“2.
7 Women™s labor force participation

Much has been written on the question of whether the Industrial
Revolution increased or decreased women™s employment opportun-
ities.1 Friedrich Engels suggested that industrialization emancipated
women by providing them with an independent income: “since large-
scale industry has transferred the woman from the house to the labor
market and the factory, and makes her, often enough, the bread winner
of the family, the last remnants of male domination in the proletarian
home have lost all foundation.”2 Engels, however, probably focused too
much on factory employment, ignoring employment opportunities that
were lost due to industrialization. Eric Richards suggests the opposite,
that women™s participation in paid work was high in the early eighteenth
century and fell substantially with industrialization.3 More recent lit-
erature favors Richards. Davidoff and Hall, for example, emphasize the
withdrawal of middle-class women from active involvement in the family
business during the ¬rst half of the nineteenth century.4 Andrew August
suggests that working-class women in the later nineteenth century did
not accept the middle-class notion of separate spheres, and paid work
continued to be an accepted part of their lives even when married.5
Unfortunately it is dif¬cult to address questions about aggregated
employment without reliable aggregate data. Census data are available
for the later part of the nineteenth century, and suggest a decline in the
participation rate of married women from 25 percent in 1851 to 10 percent
in 1901.6 Andrew August ¬nds that in the 1881 census 23 percent of
married women were employed (27 percent if we count wives in

For one review, see Janet Thomas, “Women and Capitalism: Oppression or
Emancipation? A Review Article,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 30
(1988), pp. 534“49.
Frederick Engels, “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” in Karl Marx
and Frederick Engels, Selected Works (New York: International Publishers, 1986), p. 508.
Eric Richards, “Women and the British Economy since about 1700: An Interpretation,”
History 59 (1974), pp. 337“57.
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes. 5 August, “How Separate a Sphere?”
Land, “The Family Wage,” p. 61.

Women™s labor force participation 307
Table 7.1. Married women™s labor force participation from census totals

Occupied Employed wives Corrected
Wives wives Excluded Corrected LFP LFP

1851 3,461,524 830,141 371,959 458,182 24.0 13.2
1861 3,488,952 838,856 318,643 520,213 24.0 14.9
1911 6,630,284 680,191 0 680,191 10.2 10.2

The “Excluded” category contains women whose occupation was listed as innkeeper™s
wife, shoemaker™s wife, shopkeeper™s wife, farmer™s wife, butcher™s wife, or licensed
victualler™s wife. These women are included in the category “occupied wives,” but not
counted as employed for the corrected ¬gures.
Source: McKay, “Married Women and Work.”

families who took in boarders or lodgers as employed).7 Hatton and
Bailey have used other sources to con¬rm the accuracy of the female
participation rates in the early twentieth-century censuses, so we can
accept the ¬gure of 10 percent as accurate for the beginning of the
twentieth century.8 John McKay has suggested that the participation
rate for 1851 is actually too high, and that married women™s labor
force participation did not fall during the second half of the nineteenth
century. He claims that a woman listed as the wife of a tradesman
(farmer™s wife, shoemaker™s wife, butcher™s wife, etc.) should not be
counted as employed in 1851, since these categories were not included
as occupations in the twentieth-century censuses.9 Table 7.1 shows the
labor force participation rates for married women with and without
these calculations. McKay concludes that participation did not decline
during the second half of the nineteenth century. However, I believe
that a woman listed as “shoemaker™s wife” was so listed because she
was participating in her husband™s business, and should be counted as
employed, so I prefer the uncorrected participation rates. For the ¬rst half
of the nineteenth century we cannot rely on census data because they are
not available until 1841. Unfortunately this means that evidence on female
participation for the ¬rst half of the nineteenth century is not compre-
hensive, and refers only to certain segments of the population.
Evidence on female participation before the Industrial Revolution
suggest higher rates of labor force participation than either the 1851 or
the 1901 census. Using information on witnesses found in early

August, “How Separate a Sphere?,” pp. 298, 306.
Hatton and Bailey, “Women™s Work in Census and Survey”.
John McKay, “Married Women and Work in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire: The
Evidence of the 1851 and 1861 Census Reports,” Local Population Studies 61 (1998),
pp. 25“37.
308 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Percent Female

6 Derby
1750 1800 1850 1900
Figure 7.1 Changes over time in the prevalence of women in commercial
Sources: Table 1.5 and Kelly™s Directory, 1892.

eighteenth-century court records, Peter Earle ¬nds that one-third of
married women answered the question of how they were maintained by
mentioning paid employment, and another 27 percent mentioned paid
employment as well as other sources of support, such as the husband™s
income. A minority of married women, 40 percent, did not report any
paid employment. Single women and widows had higher participation
rates; overall only 28 percent of women reported no paid employment.10
The best statistical evidence on women™s participation rates in the ¬rst
half of the nineteenth century is from family budgets collected by Sara
Horrell and Jane Humphries.11 Because the family budgets were ori-
ginally collected by contemporaries concerned with poverty, they refer
mainly to the poorest classes. These budgets suggest that the partici-
pation rate of working-class married women was 66 percent at the
beginning of the nineteenth century, and 45 percent at the middle of the
century. Even after controlling for wages, family size, and other house-
hold income, the labor force participation of married women declined
during the ¬rst half of the nineteenth century.
This decline, however, does not appear to be a universal female
experience. Commercial directories show no evidence of declining
numbers of female business owners. Figure 7.1 plots the percentage of

Earle, “The Female Labour Market in London,” p. 337.
Sara Horrell and Jane Humphries, “Women™s labour force participation and the
transition to the male-breadwinner family, 1790“1865,” Economic History Review 48
(1995), pp. 89“117.
Women™s labor force participation 309

business owners in commercial directories who were female from
Table 1.5. To see if there was a downward trend that began after 1850,
I also calculated the prevalence of female business owners in an 1892
directory for Coventry. There is no evidence of a downward trend
during the nineteenth century; if anything the trend is upwards.
There may still have been a decline in participation among trades-
women if it occurred among wives, whose participation was not
recorded in commercial directories if they assisted their husbands rather
than carrying on a separate trade. Davidoff and Hall claim that this was
the case. They provide the example of two generations of the Cadbury
family. In 1800 Richard Cadbury, a draper, and his wife Elizabeth
moved to Birmingham. The family lived in the same house as the shop,
and Elizabeth assisted in the shop. In the next generation, however,
Elizabeth™s daughter-in-law Candia had no contact with John Cadbury™s
cocoa business; Candia and her family lived in the suburb of Edgbas-
ton.12 However, it is impossible to tell whether this case of reduced
female participation was due to general social trends or to the improving
fortunes of the family, or even if it was representative of other middle-
class women. Amanda Vickery notes that:
it could be argued that a female withdrawal from active enterprise was essentially
a function of increasing wealth. Therefore any study of an expanding business,
be it in fourteenth-century York, seventeenth-century London, or nineteenth-
century Birmingham, would be likely to show a reduction over three generations
in the formal participation of female members of the owning family.13
The Cadburys™ experience was certainly not universal. The autobiog-
raphy of a cabinetmaker named James Hopkinson suggests no change
over time in wives™ participation. When he was born in 1819, James™s
mother assisted in the family grocers shop. James once drank too much
elderberry wine while his mother was waiting on a customer.14 Later in
the century James™s wife was also active in his business; James notes that
“I found I had got a good and suitable companion one with whom
I could take sweet council and whose love and affection was only equall™d
by her ability as a business woman.”15 Were the Cadburys or the
Hopkinsons more representative of their generation? More convincing
evidence is provided by trade tokens; Davidoff and Hall note that: “in
the late seventeenth century, for example, trade tokens used by local
shopkeepers and small masters carried the initials of the man and
woman™s ¬rst name and the couple™s surname, but by the late eighteenth

Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes pp. 52“7.
Vickery, “Golden Age to Separate Spheres?” p. 409.
Hopkinson, Victorian Cabinet Maker, p. 9. 15 Ibid., p. 96.
310 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

century only the initials of the man were retained.”16 This suggests
that by the late eighteenth century wives were no longer active business
partners with their husbands.
If we accept the claim that married women™s labor force participation
declined during the nineteenth century, the next question is what caused
that decline. This chapter examines ¬ve possible causes: market
demand, barriers to employment in certain occupations, rising house-
hold income, information about germs, and gender ideology. Some of
these causes can be seen as economic, and some as ideological. Some
reduced participation by increasing women™s choices, making them
better off, and some reduced participation by decreasing women™s
choices, making them worse off. All these factors seem to have had some
role in reducing female participation, though the timing and extent of
each factor varied.

I. Demand
In some occupations there was a decline in demand for female services.
A decline in demand will result in lower total employment unless labor
supply is unresponsive to the wage. One important shock to the demand
for female labor was the disappearance of the occupation of hand
spinning. Before the Industrial Revolution, hand spinning had been a
nearly universal occupation for women, but by 1850 it had completely
disappeared (see Chapter 1 for a discussion of the decline of spinning).
Other cottage industries, such as straw-plaiting and lace-making,
appeared, but these industries were never as ubiquitous as spinning, and
could at best only partially compensate for its loss.
Data on wages and employment of agricultural laborers suggest that
there must have been a decline in the demand for female workers in
agriculture as well. Figure 7.2 shows the change over time in the female“
male wage ratio among agricultural day-laborers, based on a sample of
farm accounts from eighty-four farms.17 The wage ratio is clearly lower
in 1850 than it was in 1750, and the decline seems to have occurred
before 1800. The summer wage ratio fell from 0.61 in 1741“5 to 0.37 in
1796“1800, and during the same time period the winter wage ratio
fell from 0.54 to 0.31. Was this decline in relative female wages caused
by the disappearance of spinning employment, which would have
increased the supply of women available to farmers? If this decline in
relative female wages had been caused by an increase in the supply of
women available to farmers following the disappearance of spinning

16 17
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 272. Burnette, “Wages and Employment.”
Women™s labor force participation 311

Female Wage/Male Wage






1740 1750 1760 1770 1780 1790 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850

Figure 7.2 Female“male wage ratio in agriculture
Source: Burnette, “Wages and Employment.”


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