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104
Young, Northern Tour, vol. II, p. 129.
105
Gielgud, “Nineteenth Century Farm Women,” p. 164.
106
Eden, State of the Poor, vol. I, pp. 626“7.
Nicola Verdon, “ ˜ . . . subjects deserving of the highest praise™: Farmers™ Wives and the
107

Farm Economy in England, c. 1700“1850,” Agricultural History Review 51 (2003), 23“39.
108
Mary Hardy, Mary Hardy™s Diary (London: Norfolk Record Society, vol. 37, 1968),
p. 31.
109
Deborah Valenze, “The Art of Women and the Business of Men: Women™s Work and
the Dairy Industry, c 1740“1840,” Past and Present 139 (1991), 142“69; Sally
McMurray, “Women™s Work in Agriculture: Divergent Trends in England and
America, 1800 to 1930,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34 (1992),
pp. 248“70.
Women™s occupations 53

the middle of the nineteenth century, men had entered the dairy
industry, but it was still common for the farmer™s wife to run the dairy.
In 1843 Alfred Austin reported that in the smaller dairy farms of the
south-east
the most laborious part of the work is not performed by servants, but by the
mistress herself. The prosperity of such a farm depends entirely on the quality of
the cheese, or, in other words, upon the skill and attention bestowed on its
making and subsequent management. The entire management of the dairy rests
with the farmer™s wife, and cannot be left to servants.110

A farmer™s wife might also take over the management of the farm in her
husband™s absence. For example, Ann Lukin took over the management of
a 142 acre farm when her husband, Captain Lukin, was called to sea.111
Ivy Pinchbeck suggests that the wives of better-off farmers withdrew
from active participation in farm work. The evidence she provides is
anecdotal. The author of An Honest Farmer complained that wives and
daughters of farmers enjoyed leisure rather than working on the farm:
Our wives have their Toilettes, and their Entertainments; Tri¬‚es, Jellies, Sylla-
bubs, and Sweetmeats, are become Things of course . . . Our daughters, instead
of being taught their Duty, and the Business of a Dairy at home, receive their
Education at a Boarding School, are taught to dance, to speak French, and to
play upon a Harpsicord.112

A satiric poem by John Robey suggests change over time in the activities
of women, as well as men:

1743
Man, to the Plough
Wife, to the Cow,
Girl, to the Yarn,
Boy, to the Barn,
And your Rent will be netted.

1843
Man, Tally Ho
Miss, Piano,
Wife, Silk and Satin,
Boy, Greek and Latin,
And you™ll all be Gazetted.113

110
Women and Children in Agriculture, p. 5. A farmer from Othery, Somerset, claimed that
nearly all the dairy work in that region was done by farmers™ wives. Women and
Children in Agriculture, p. 120.
111
Norfolk Record Of¬ce WKC 5/233.
112
Quoted in Pinchbeck, Women Workers, p. 36. 113 Ibid.
54 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Nicola Verdon, however, suggests that the withdrawal of farmers™ wives
was not universal, and was probably more common in East Anglia,
where farms were growing larger, than in other regions.114 Smaller
farms, where wives™ participation was still needed, remained numerous.
Where women did cease to be engaged in farm work, this withdrawal
was probably related to the increased wealth of the farmers as their farms
grew larger. The Industrial Revolution was a time of concentration of
land ownership, a phenomenon Allen calls the landlord™s agricultural
revolution.115 Changes in mortgage law enabled landowners to run out
copyholds and increase their property rights. Enclosures pushed small
farmers off the land. These changes probably resulted in larger farms,
where the farmer™s wife could afford more leisure.
Wives of laborers also worked as self-employed agricultural produ-
cers. In 1785 a pamphleteer claims, “I have known instances of the
wife™s management of the live stock, together with the earnings of
herself and her children in hay time, and harvest, &c., produce nearly as
much money in the course of the year, as her husband by all his labor
during the same time.”116 When a common was available, a laborer™s
wife could use it to raise animals such as geese or pigs, or a cow. The
produce from a cow could mean a weekly income of 5s. to 6s. per week
for the family, which was higher than a woman™s usual weekly wage as a
hired laborer. 117 The commons also provided raw material for making
brooms, and women could also reduce household expenditures by
collecting fuel, berries, and nuts there. Thus, the laborer™s wife could
earn substantial sums even if she rarely worked for wages. Unfortu-
nately, the opportunities for such work diminished as a result of par-
liamentary enclosures, which reached a peak in the ¬rst few decades of
the nineteenth century.118 Enclosures prevented landless laborers from
keeping livestock; the number of cows in Tutvy[Turvey], Bedfordshire,
decreased from 110 to 40 after enclosure.119


Verdon, “ . . . subjects deserving.”
114
115
Robert C. Allen, Enclosures and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South
Midlands 1450“1850 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).
116
A Political Enquiry into the Consequences of Enclosing Waste Lands (London: L. Davis, 1785),
p. 46. Eden, State of the Poor, vol. I, p. 608 claims: “I have often observed, that when the
circumstances of a laboring family have enabled them to purchase a cow, the good
management of the wife has preserved them from the parish as long as the cow lasted.”
117
Jane Humphries, “Enclosures, Common Rights, and Women: The Proletarianization
of Families in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries,” Journal of
Economic History 50 (1990), 17“42.
118
Mark Overton, Agricultural Revolution in England: The Transformation of the Agrarian
Economy 1500“1850 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 150“1.
119
Board of Agriculture, General Report on Enclosures (London: B. McMillan, 1808), p. 150.
Women™s occupations 55

The loss of the commons was partially replaced by the provision of
allotments, small plots of land that laborers could rent. Allotments
were ¬rst provided about 1795, but did not become common until the
1830s. By the mid-nineteenth century, nearly one quarter of English
parishes had allotments, and these were more common in the south
than in the north.120 Burchardt estimated that an allotment of a
quarter acre would increase family income by £4 to £5, which was
about half of the pro¬t that could have been derived from keeping a
cow on the common.121 Women provided much of the labor for
allotments. Burchardt suggests that men did the heavy labor of digging
during the winter when they were unemployed, while the lighter
summer work of weeding and picking was done by women and chil-
dren.122 Many of the laborers™ wives interviewed by Alfred Austin in
1843 mention farming small amounts of land, which they used to grow
potatoes and sometimes wheat, and to keep a pig. Mrs. Sumble, the
wife of a farm laborer from Calne, Wiltshire, reported in 1843: “We
have an allotment of one acre all but ten rods. Last year we laid out
half an acre in wheat, and had two sacks and a bushel; the rest in
potatoes. We generally fat a pig to sell to pay the shoemaker™s bill. This
year the pig died, which is a bad job.”123 Jane Long, the wife of a
laborer from Studley, Calne, had half an acre and raised potatoes and
a pig; she notes “I work on the land myself.”124 Land was not always
available, though, and some laborers expressed the desire for more
land. The wife of a Wiltshire laborer reported:
We have also two small pieces of ground, together 65 perches, for which we pay
2l. 7s. a-year, and upon which we grow potatoes. We would like to have an acre
more, for then we could raise a little corn, and have more bread than now at a
cheaper rate. The land we have does not furnish potatoes enough; we have to
buy some in the spring.125

In addition to allotments, farmers sometimes gave their laborers small
“potato grounds” as a supplement to their cash wage.126 A Somerset
farmer noted that, instead of cider, he gave his laborers half an acre of

120
Jeremy Burchardt, The Allotment Movement in England, 1793“1873 (Woodbridge:
Boydell and Brewer, 2002), p. 68.
121
Ibid., p. 232. 122 Ibid., p. 146. 123 Women and Children in Agriculture, p. 68.
124
Ibid., p. 71. See also pp. 70, 270, and 271.
125
Mrs. Wilshire of Cherill, Wiltshire. The Wilshire family also raised a pig. Ibid., p. 69.
126
“Many farmers give their regular laborers a potato-ground rent-free, where they
have no allotments.” Alfred Austin, in Women and Children in Agriculture, p. 14.
Mrs. Bustler of Whitchurch, Dorset reports “My husband is carter to Mr. Fowler. He
has 7s. a-week wages. We have also our cottage with a garden, and ten lugs of potato-
ground, rent-free.” Ibid., p. 90.
56 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

potato ground, which was worked by their wives and children127 After
enclosure women retained the right to glean, and often the value of the
gleanings was greater than what the woman could have earned in harvest
work.128 Thus, in spite of enclosures, poor women still had opportun-
ities to be agricultural producers.
In the paid labor market, women were widely employed as agricultural
servants, and did a variety of farm tasks. Kussmaul estimates that in pre-
industrial Britain about 60 percent of the population between 15 and
24 years of age were servants.129 This was a stage of life between child-
hood and marriage, through which men and women both passed. There
were more male farm servants than female, but not by a wide margin;
the ratio was 121 males to every 100 females.130 Women also worked as
agricultural day-laborers, but here they were greatly outnumbered by
male workers. In 1851 there were about 840 male day-laborers (including
boys) for every 100 female day-laborers.131 The employment of female
day-laborers varied a great deal from one region to another. Few women
worked as agricultural laborers near London, or where there were thriving
cottage industries, while more women worked as agricultural laborers
in the north or the south-west.132 Women were widely employed for
hay making, and were also frequently employed for land-cleaning tasks
such as weeding and stone-picking. Harvest employment for women was
reduced when the scythe replaced the sickle.
The portion of agricultural day-labor worked by women decreased
between 1750 and 1850. Women contributed about 13.6 percent of all
days worked in 1751, and only about 10.6 percent of days worked in
1851.133 Enclosures may have decreased the demand for female agri-
cultural laborers; at one farm near Shef¬eld, the percentage of work-
days worked by women fell from 18 percent in the 1770s (before
enclosure) to 6 percent in the 1830s (after enclosure).134 The portion of
farm servants who were female may have declined, but the inaccuracies
of the 1851 census make this uncertain. Kussmaul estimates that in the
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 45 percent of farm servants were
female, compared to only 32 percent in the 1851 census.135 However,

127
Mr. Somers of Othery, Somersetshire, ibid., 1843, p. 121.
128
King, “Customary Rights.”
129
Ann Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry in Early Modern England (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 3.
130
Ibid., p. 4. The difference may be partly due to the fact that women tended to marry
younger.
131
Burnette, “Wages and Employment,” p. 683.
132
Ibid., p. 681. See also Verdon, Rural Women Workers, pp. 102“3, 142.
133
Burnette, “Wages and Employment,” p. 683.
134
Burnette, “Labourers at the Oakes.” 135 Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry, p. 4.
Women™s occupations 57

Higgs has shown that the 1851 census misallocated many farm servants
as domestic servants. The errors in the 1851 census are large enough to
leave open the possibility that the portion of farm servants who were
female did not decline; Higgs™s revisions of the 1851 census increase
the number of women in agriculture by over four times.136 However, the
compositional effects of the decline in service surely did decrease female
employment in agriculture. Since servants were much more likely than
laborers to be female, the decline in the employment of farm servants
would have reduced the number of female agricultural employees.137
Throughout the Industrial Revolution, women™s opportunities for
farming work varied with region. The south-east specialized increasingly
in grain, and women workers were less in demand there because most of
the tasks in arable agriculture were strength-intensive. In the west, dairy
farming was more popular, and the demand for women workers was
maintained in these areas. In the far north, labor in general was scarce,
and women were more often employed in agriculture. This region
developed its own institution to deal with the scarcity of labor. Male
laborers who contracted to work for a farmer for a year were required to
provide a “bondager,” a woman who was available for work whenever
the farmer wanted her, at a set wage. A man who had no wife or
daughter to serve as a bondager often had to hire one “ in effect, this was
a decrease in the man™s wage and an increase in the woman™s. Without
this system, farmers may have been forced to pay higher wages to get the
workers they needed.

D. Domestic service
Many women were employed in domestic service, though the number is
probably overstated in the censuses. As we have seen, Edward Higgs
claims that the 1841 and 1851 censuses exaggerate the extent to which
women™s paid work was concentrated in domestic service, partly because
female farm servants, who were often called “maids,” were frequently
mis-categorized as domestic rather than agricultural workers. Edward
Higgs™s revisions, presented in Table 1.2, suggest that in 1851 only 18
percent of the female labor force was employed in domestic service.
However, Higgs™s revisions are too extreme, because they are based on
detailed studies from Lancashire, which was not representative of the
entire country.138 The percentage of the female labor force employed in

136
Higgs, “Women, Occupations and Work,” pp. 59“80.
137
Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry, p. 15.
138
Anderson, “Mis-Speci¬cation of Servant Occupations.”
58 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

domestic service was probably somewhere between the 40 percent
reported in the 1851 census and the 18 percent reported by Higgs.
A common form of employment in domestic service was as a live-in
domestic servant. Servants received room and board in addition to an
annual money wage. In the 1830s general servants typically earned about
£10 per year for their money wage, and adding the value of in-kind
payments would at least double this wage.139 For these wages servants
had to put up with long hours, limited freedom, and sometimes sexual
harassment.140 While the Duke of Bedford employed forty servants in
1753, such large retinues were rare.141 In fact, less than half of all ser-
vants worked with another servant in the same household. Edward
Higgs ¬nds that in Rochdale, Lancashire, in 1851, 61 percent of servants
were “the only resident domestic in the households in which they were
enumerated.”142
Live-in domestic servants were generally young and single. In Rochdale
in 1871, 71 percent of servants were less than 30 years old, and 89
percent of female general servants were single. In London in 1851 only
2 percent of female servants were married.143 Servants were often
recruited from rural areas, and were more likely to have migrated away
from their place of birth than typical town residents.144 More females
than males were hired as domestic servants; at the end of the seventeenth
century 57 percent of servants in English towns were female.145 The
employment of female, as opposed to male, domestic servants was
encouraged by a tax on male domestic servants which was in effect from
1777 to 1791.146 If we accept the count of domestic servants given in the
1841 census, 79 percent of domestic servants were female. If we accept
Higgs™s claim that the number of female domestic servants is overstated

139
Higgs, “Domestic Service,” p. 138.
140
Bridget Hill, Women, Work, and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1989), p. 137.
141
Ibid., p. 129. 142 Higgs, “Domestic Service,” p. 136.
143
Simonton, European Women™s Work, p. 99.
144
In 1851, 70 percent of women age 10 to 30 living in Rochdale, Lancashire, had been
born there, while only 38 percent of female servants had been born in Rochdale.
Higgs, “Domestic Service,” p. 139.
145
This estimate is based on returns from ¬ve large and ¬ve small English towns. David
Souden, “Migrants and the Population Structure of Later Seventeenth-Century
Provincial Cities and Market Towns,” in Peter Clark, ed., The Transformation of
English Provincial Towns, 1600“1800 (London: Hutchinson, 1984), p. 150.
146
Servants employed in “any trade or calling by which the master or masters of such
servants earn a livelihood or pro¬t” were exempt from the tax. In 1785 a tax on female
servants was introduced, but the tax on female servants was always lower than the tax on
male servants. John Chartres, “English Landed Society and the Servants Tax of 1777,” in
Negley Harte and Roland Quinault, eds., Land and Society in Britain, 1700“1914
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996), pp. 34“56.
Women™s occupations 59

by the census and should be reduced by about half, then we conclude
that two-thirds of domestic servants were female.147 Thus we can con-
clude that there were more female servants than male servants, and
somewhere between 66 and 79 percent of servants were female in 1841.
There was a gendered division of labor among domestic servants. Men
were hired as footmen, butlers, grooms, coachmen, and gardeners, but
not as kitchen maids or housemaids.148
Live-in servants, though, were not the only women engaged in domestic
service occupations. Women were also employed “charring,” which refers
to housework, usually cleaning, done in the home of the employer and paid
on a daily basis. When Mary Collier described her experience charring, she
mentioned laundry, cleaning pewter, washing pots and pans, and brewing
as work that she did. For these tasks she earned 6d. or 8d. per day.149 Other
women took in laundry, doing the washing in their own homes. The cir-
cumstances of such work are well described by Henry Mayhew, who
entered the home of a London dock worker:
The room was about 7 feet square, and, with the man and his wife, there were eight
human creatures living in it. In the middle of the apartment, upon a chair, stood a
washing-tub foaming with fresh suds, and from the white crinkled hands of the wife
it was plain that I had interrupted her in her washing. On one chair, close by, was
a heap of dirty linen, and on another was ¬‚ung the newly-washed . . . On my
observing to the woman that I supposed she dried the clothes in that room, she told
me that they were obliged to do so, and it gave them all colds and bad eyes.150

This particular woman earned money both by taking in washing and by
going out to do washing or charring at 3s. per week.151 A laundress
could earn more if she owned a mangle; a watercress seller told Henry
Mayhew that his wife “takes in a little washing, and keeps a mangle . . .
The mangle we give 50s. for, and it brings us in now 1s. 3d. a day with
the washing.”152 Ironing required more skill than washing and paid
better; women could earn 15s. per week ironing.153 While domestic
servants were generally young and single, charwomen and laundresses
were more likely to be middle-aged and married.154

147
BPP 1844 (587) XXVII, and Higgs, “Women, Occupations and Work.”
148
Hill, Women, Work, and Sexual Politics, p. 127.
149
Collier, “The Woman™s Labour.”
150
Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor (London: Grif¬n, Bohn, and Co.,
1861), vol. III, p. 306.
151
Ibid., vol. III, p. 307. 152 Ibid., vol. I, p. 150.
153
Sally Alexander, Becoming a Woman and Other Essays in 19th and 20th Century Feminist
History (New York: New York University Press, 1995), p. 43; Patricia Malcolmson,
English Laundresses: A Social History, 1850“1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1986), pp. 33“4.
154
Alexander, Becoming a Woman, p. 42. Malcolmson, English Laundresses, p. 18.
60 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

Nursing, or tending the sick, could also be seen as a form of domestic
service. Before the mid-seventeenth century the term “nursing” meant
caring for children. After that time, however, the term also meant caring
for the sick. Nurses would take care of and sit through the night with sick
individuals, and would also help with household tasks such as cleaning
or laundry.155 Most nurses were women, but men were also employed as
nurses. In a sample of nurses hired by poor law overseers in Campton,
Bedfordshire, between 1767 and 1834, 17 percent of nurses were
male.156 Wages for nursing varied considerably. Sitting up with a sick
person paid 6d. per night, and full-time nursing was paid from 4s. to 8s.
per week.157 In 1826 an Essex laborer wrote that “my wife expects to be
con¬ned and I cant Get a nus [nurse] for les then 4 shilen a weak.”158
Occasionally earnings were higher; one nurse earned 42s. for about three
weeks work with smallpox patients in 1832.159
Using the statements of witnesses in court records from 1695 to 1725,
Earle ¬nds that 11 percent of women in London were engaged in
charring or laundry, and another 9 percent in nursing. The numbers of
women engaged in these more temporary forms of domestic service were
only slightly smaller than the numbers employed as live-in domestic
servants. While 25 percent of women were domestic servants, charring,
laundry, and nursing together employed 20 percent of women. While
most live-in domestic servants were single, most of the charwomen
(63 percent) were married.160

E. Variety
One oversimpli¬ed view of Industrial Revolution labor markets is that
men and women never did the same work; men were only found doing
“men™s work,” and women were only found doing “women™s work.”
This view is false. The allocation of work between the sexes was less
strict than most people imagine. The tendency to exaggerate the division

155
Williams, “Caring for the Sick Poor,” p. 149.
156
Ibid., p. 150. Williams reports that 16 percent of nurses in her sample were male, and
8 percent were of unknown gender. I exclude those of unknown gender, and conclude
that 17 percent of nurses of known gender were male.
157
Ibid., pp. 147, 157.
158
Quoted in Pamela Sharpe, “ ˜The bowels of compation™: A Labouring Family and the
Law, c. 1790“1834,” in Tim Hitchcock and Peter King, eds., Chronicling Poverty: The
Voices and Strategies of the English Poor, 1640“1840 (New York: St. Martin™s Press,
1997), p. 98.
159
Williams, “Caring for the Sick Poor,” pp. 147, 156“7.
160
Peter Earle, “The Female Labour Market in London in the Late Seventeenth and
Early Nineteenth Centuries,” Economic History Review 42 (1980), pp. 328“53.
Women™s occupations 61

of labor between the sexes and make general tendencies into strict rules
probably arises from the failure to distinguish between ideology and
reality. While occupations did tend to be dominated by one sex or the
other, and contemporaries did label certain occupations “men™s work,”
that doesn™t mean men always did these jobs. Focusing on the ideo-
logical labels of jobs leads us to overlook the fact that such designations
did not always re¬‚ect true employment patterns. We frequently ¬nd men
doing “women™s work” and women doing “men™s work.” For example, a
Durham rector noted that “In the Northern Counties, the Women
engage in Men™s work much more than in the Southern Districts; serving
the masons with mortar, bricks, &c. is not uncommonly done by Women
in the Towns.”161 The actual distribution of labor, then, was much more
¬‚exible than the gender labels assigned to the work.
The impression one sometimes gets from reading histories of women
workers is that they worked in only a handful of occupations, and never in
positions of authority. Honeyman and Goodman suggest that “The central
problem in the history of women™s work is to explain . . . the persistence of
women in the lowest paid, least stable, and most unrewarding
occupations.”162 Rose claims, “Women were often supervised by men,
but men were never supervised by women.”163 While it is true that
women workers were concentrated in a few low-skill occupations, a sig-
ni¬cant minority of women were employed in a wide variety of occupa-
tions “ in industries not thought of as “women™s work,” and in positions of
authority. We must not exaggerate the extent of the occupational sorting.
Women were not con¬ned to a small number of occupations. In the
1841 census, which signi¬cantly underrecords women™s participation,
three-fourths of all the occupations listed contained both men and
women. Of the 935 occupations, 219 (23 percent) were exclusively
male and 5 (0.5 percent) were exclusively female.164 Women were
accoutrement-makers, actors, agents, agricultural implement makers,
alkali manufacturers, alum manufacturers, anchor-smiths, animal and
bird dealers, animal and bird preservers, anvil makers, archery-goods
dealers, army clothiers, artists, auctioneers, aurists, and authors “ and
that™s just the A™s.
In agriculture the designations “women™s work” and “men™s work” do
not accurately predict the sex of the worker. Certain tasks were regularly
done by women and were considered “women™s work.” Dairying was

161
BPP 1834 (44) XXX, Whitburn, Durham, p. 169.
162
Katrina Honeyman and Jordan Goodman, “Women™s Work, Gender Con¬‚ict, and
Labour Markets in Europe, 1500“1900,” Economic History Review 44 (1991), p. 608.
163
Rose, Limited Livelihoods, p. 16. 164 BPP 1844 (587) XXVII.
62 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

women™s work, and women were said to do weeding, hoeing, and stone-
gathering better than men.165 Such labels, however, were descriptions
rather than rigid rules. We often ¬nd men doing these tasks.166 Men
usually tended the animals, but in 1810 a Gloucestershire farm hired
Elizabeth Selby to help with tending the sheep.167 Dairy work was
generally gendered as female, but men were frequently found doing all
the tasks of the dairy. Men often milked cows.168 Marshall notes that in
Gloucestershire, “An indoor servant, by the name of a ˜milking man,™ is
generally kept, in the larger dairies, for the purpose of milking, churning,
and otherwise assisting in the business of the dairy.”169 Men were also
employed in churning butter.170 Women usually managed dairies, but in
the nineteenth century dairymen began to take over the management of
some dairies.171 In the south west it was common for cows to be rented
out to a dairyman and his wife.172
While cottage industry tended to be female, some of these industries
employed mostly men. Even the male cottage industries, though, were
accessible to women workers. Handloom weaving was primarily a male
occupation in the eighteenth century, but when hand spinning was
replaced by machine spinning, women moved easily into handloom
weaving. Another typically male cottage industry was framework knit-
ting. Women most often worked seaming the stockings, and the great
majority of frames were worked by men, but in 1845 7 percent of frames
were worked by females.173
Women workers were found in coal, lead, copper, and tin mines. In
certain locations women and children were employed underground in
collieries, mainly in transporting the coal. It was extremely rare for women
to work hewing coal. Women were certainly not employed as frequently as
men in coal mines, but they were not unknown; in Lancashire the ratio of

165
Pinchbeck, Women Workers, p. 100.
166
Examples of men hoeing: Norfolk Record Of¬ce MC 561/47, Devon Record Of¬ce
346M/E8, Hertfordshire Record Of¬ce D/EP EA50/2. Examples of men weeding:
Devon Record Of¬ce 346M/E8.
167
Gloucestershire Record Of¬ce D1571 A21.
168
The autobiography of Joseph Mayett, a farm servant, tells us that he milked cows. See
Kussmaul, Servants in Husbandry, p. 86. McMurry, “Women™s Work in Agriculture,”
p. 254, claims: “Milking, of course, was done by men and women together; numerous
published materials referred to farmers who hired men and women to milk.”
169
William Marshall, The Rural Economy of Gloucestershire, 2nd ed. (London: G. Nicol,
1796), vol. I, pp. 272“3.
170
Deborah Valenze, The First Industrial Woman (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1995), p. 60; Pinchbeck, Women Workers, p. 14.
171
Pinchbeck, Women Workers, p. 41. 172 Horn, “The Dorset Dairy System.”
173
Sonya Rose, “Gender Segregation in the Transition to the Factory: The English
Hosiery Industry, 1850“1910,” Feminist Studies 13 (1987), p. 166.
Women™s occupations 63

women to men employed underground was one woman for every twelve
men.174 The employment of women in coal mines varied greatly with
region. According to the 1842 parliamentary report, coal mines in
Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Durham, Northumberland, Monmouthshire,
and the west of Scotland did not hire any female workers. Coal mines in
Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Glamorganshire hired a few women, and
mines in Pembrokeshire and the east of Scotland hired many.175 The
Mines Act of 1842 forbade the employment of females underground, but
women continued to work at the pit brow. At lead mines, women washed
the ore; they seem to have engaged in this occupation through the
eighteenth century, and into the nineteenth. In the 1720s, Defoe talked to
a woman in Derbyshire who earned 3d. a day washing ore.176 In 1769,
Arthur Young found that in the lead mines of North Yorkshire “the men
earn at an average about 1s.3d.; the women 1s.”177 In 1833, women and
children washing lead ore in North Yorkshire earned 4d. to 10d. a day.178
In Cornwall and Devon women worked at the copper and tin mines. In
1827 there were an estimated 2276 women working in the copper and tin
mines of Cornwall.179 Their work was always above ground, and they
generally broke up the ore to make it ready for the crushing machines. In
1833, women working at the copper and tin mines at St Agnes, Cornwall,
earned 6d. a day.
Women were often employed in the manufacture of small metal
goods. A parliamentary investigator stated in 1843:
I saw in some manufactures women employed in most labourious work, such as
stamping buttons and brass nails, and notching the heads of screws: these are
certainly un¬t occupations for women. In screw manufactories the females
constitute from 80 to 90 per cent of the whole number employed.180

This investigator™s opinion that these were “un¬t occupations for
women” is striking, but despite such Victorian rhetoric, women were
widely employed in these “unfeminine” tasks.181 In Wolverhampton

174
BPP 1842 (380) XV, p. 39. 175 Ibid., p. 38. 176 Defoe, Tour, p. 464.
177
Young, Northern Tour, vol. I, p. 357.
178
BPP 1834 (44) XXX, Reeth, North Yorkshire, p. 613.
179
Gill Burke, “The Decline of the Independent Bal Maiden: The Impact of Change in
the Cornish Mining Industry,” in Angela John, ed., Unequal Opportunities (Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 182.
180
BPP 1843 (430) XIII, p. 16.
181
Carol Morgan points out that observers seem to have been more concerned with the
morality of female workers in the small metal industries than with their working
conditions. Carol Morgan, “Work for Girls? The Small Metal Industries in England,
1840“1915,” in Mary Jo Maynes, Birgitte Soland, and Christina Benninghaus, eds.,
Secret Gardens, Satanic Mills: Placing Girls in European History, 1750“1960
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), pp. 83“98.
64 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

women were widely employed in screw-making, japanning, and nail-
making. Indeed, there is evidence that the employment of women in
these trades was increasing. A workman stated in 1843, “Since the
machines have been introduced in the weaving and spinning mills, ten
times as many girls come to work at nails and chains . . . The girls can
make the nails well; some of them as well as a man.”182 In 1833 women
were said to be employed making nails in Staffordshire, Warwickshire,
Worcestershire, and West Yorkshire. Women made needles in
Warwickshire and Worcestershire. In Tardebigg, Worcestershire, their
earnings averaged 8s. a week.183 In Brightside Bierlow, West Yorkshire,
“Women and children are employed in most of the branches of the
Shef¬eld trade, particularly the silver plated, white metal, nail-cutting.”
In Sedgeley, Staffordshire, women earned “From 3s. to 6s. per week in
making nails and wood screws.”184 This was dirty work, as one observer
explains: “In Staffordshire they make nails; and unless my readers have
seen them, I cannot represent to the imagination the extraordinary ¬g-
ures they present “ black with soot, muscular, brawny “ undelightful to
the last degree.”185 Though this type of work did not ¬t the cultural
notion of women™s work, women did it anyway.
The pin-making industry contained a high proportion of women
workers throughout the Industrial Revolution. Arthur Young, in 1767,
found a great number of women in pin-making in Gloucester and
Bristol.186 The 1841 census records 838 females and 492 males (of all
ages) in pin manufacture, a ratio of 170 females for every 100 males. In
1843 a parliamentary committee found that this trade was still “carried
on principally by female labor.”187 These females were mostly young,
and averaged about 6s. a week.188
The work of women in textile factories is well known, but their work in
other kinds of factories is less so. In 1833 women and children worked
“in brick and tile manufactory” in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.189 In

182
BPP 1843 (430) XIII, p. 16.
183
BPP 1834 (44) XXX, Alcester, Warwickshire and Tardebigg, Worcestershire, pp. 545,
602.
184
Ibid., pp. 453, 621
185
Bessie Rayner Parkes, Essays on Women™s Work, 1865, quoted in Ellen Jordan, “The
Exclusion of Women from Industry in Nineteenth-Century Britain,” Comparative
Studies in Society and History 31 (1989), p. 288.
186
Arthur Young, A Six Weeks™ Tour through the Southern Counties of England and Wales
(London: W. Nicoll, 1768), pp. 109, 150.
187
BPP 1843 (430) XIII, p. 17.
188
Wanda Fraiken Neff, Victorian Working Women: An Historical and Literary Study of
Women in British Industries and Professions, 1832“1850 (London: George Allen and
Unwin, 1929), p. 96.
189
BPP 1834 (44) XXX, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, p. 612.
Women™s occupations 65

earthenware manufacture in Staffordshire, the number of adult women
(over 21) was 58 percent the number of adult men. Many of these women
were skilled workers. Skilled women were employed painting pottery and
earned high wages; one woman earned 3s.6d. a day, which is approxi-
mately what women in cottage industry would earn in a week.190 Women
also worked in paper mills; in the 1833 “Rural Queries” six parishes in
¬ve different counties reported work opportunities for women in paper
mills.191 Older women were frequently employed as overlookers in the
rag-room, whose workers were youths of both sexes.192
While the majority of the recorded tradeswomen did work in the
typically “female” trades, many did not. A few skilled trades, particularly
dressmaking, mantua-making, and millinery, were “women™s work” and
employed females almost exclusively. However, women were also widely
involved in retail trade, keeping shops of all descriptions.They frequently
ran taverns and inns. Sometimes these women were quite successful; in
1765, one London woman had saved £6000 from her boarding-house
business.193 While these trades account for most of the documented
tradeswomen, women were certainly not limited to these few trades.
Even among tradeswomen recorded as working on their own account, a
signi¬cant minority worked in trades that were never considered
“women™s work.” In Manchester in 1788 we ¬nd Elizabeth Turpin,
wool-comber, Widow Brownson, butcher, Ann Chadwick, timber
dealer, and Mrs. Horsefall, carter.194 All of these women worked in
occupations normally considered men™s work.
There are also many examples of women in skilled work or in pos-
itions of authority. As noted above, some women were farmers who
actively managed their farms. Sometimes women farmers took on
duties of local government.195 When her husband died, Mary Stimpson
¬nished out Benjamin™s half-year term as overseer of the poor, signing
the rate book in March of 1832.196 (However, she did not continue in

190
This woman earned more than her husband. “Since the differentials applied to
particular skills, particularly skillful women could substantially out-earn their less skillful
husbands. Mrs. Wilcox, a skilled ¬‚ower painter in Wedgwood™s London workrooms,
earned 3s.6d. a day . . . her husband also a painter but less skilled, and employed on
simpler, more repetitive tasks, earned 2s.6d. a day.” Neil McKendrick, “Home Demand
and Economic Growth: A New View of the Role of Women and Children in the
Industrial Revolution,” in Neil McKendrick, ed., Historical Perspectives: Studies in English
Thought and Society (London: Europa, 1974), pp. 185“6.
191
BPP 1834 (44) XXX. 192 BPP 1843 (431) XIV, pp. a1“a30.
193
Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century (London: Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trubner & Co., 1925), p. 89.
194
Lewis™s Manchester Directory for 1788, reprinted by Neil Richardson (Manchester: Neil
Richardson, 1984).
195
Davidoff, “The Role of Gender,” p. 201. 196 Norfolk Record Of¬ce MC 561/46.
66 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain
Table 1.8. The British proprietress

Year
Name Business Comments of src

Miss Rachel Leach Cotton mill, Keighley, Built a cotton mill in the 1780s *
West Yorks. and operated it for a few decades
Mrs. Betty Hudson Cotton mill, Keighley, Built and operated a mill *
West Yorks.
Mrs. Vanderplank Woollen clothier, Her 2 sons are managers 1806
Gloucestershire
Mrs. Elizabeth Owns Harvey™s Fish Inherited the trademark 1819
Lazenby Sauce, sells it wholesale from her brother
from her warehouse in
London
Mrs. Doig Powerloom weaving 60 employees, 50 female 1833
factory, Scotland
Mary Powell Flannel handloom 16 looms, 8 men employed 1840
weaving, Wales
Mrs. Ann Harris Handloom weaving 14 employees, 6 men 1840
“factory,” Wales
Mrs. Ann Whiled Handloom weaving 9 employees 1840
“factory,” Wales

Sources: * Crouzet, The First Industrialists, pp. 52. 1806: BPP 1806 (268) III, pp. 328“31.
1819: The London Times, Jan. 14, 1819. 1833: BPP 1833 (450) XX, A1, p. 120. 1840: BPP.
1840 (220) XXIV, pp. 562“73.


this position, but was replaced by William Copeman.) Female business
proprietors were not common, but they were not unknown. Table 1.8
lists some examples of women business owners. Grove Mill in the
booming town of Keighley, West Yorkshire, was owned and rented out
by Mrs. Ann Illingworth.197 In the neighborhood of Keighley, near
Leeds, Miss Rachael Leach and Mrs. Betty Hudson built and operated
cotton mills.198 In the ¬‚annel trade in Llanidloes, Montgomeryshire,
Mrs. Lucas and Ann Lewis each employed forty handloom weavers,
most of whom were men.199 In Manchester in 1788, we ¬nd the ¬rm of
Phebe Fletcher & Co., iron forger and founder, and the brickmaker
Mrs. Wagstaff.200 Women worked as iron casters in Staffordshire; in

197
“Notes on Grove Mill,” Keighley Reference Library.
198
Fran¸ ois Crouzet, ed., The First Industrialists (Cambridge: Cambridge University
c
Press, 1985), p. 52.
199
BPP 1840 (220) XXIV, p. 565.
200
Lewis™s Manchester Directory for 1788. J. Aiken, A Description of the Country from Thirty to
Forty Miles round Manchester (London: John Stockdale, 1795), p. 177, also notes that
“Mrs. Phebe Fletcher” was the head of one of Manchester™s ¬ve iron foundries.
Women™s occupations 67

1866 it was noted that “Instances of women working as casters are still
remembered in the trade.”201 Noting the women employed as insurance
agents for the Sun Fire Of¬ce, Nicola Phillips states that these women
“appear to have been accepted in their own rights as publicly recognised
¬nancial brokers.”202 Businesswomen were common in the pillow-lace
trade; the “middle-men” in this trade were actually women. Lace-
making was a cottage industry; women obtained the materials from their
employers, manufactured the lace at home, and were paid a piece-rate.
The employers who farmed out the work were women. In the 1840s in
Nottingham, there were frequently three or even four layers of women
giving out lace embroidery work. These lace mistresses were no better to
their female employees than were male employers in other industries.
They paid low wages, paid these wages in truck (“bread and candles”),
and made their employees work on Sundays.203
Elizabeth Sanderson documents the prevalence of women in the
Edinburgh business world. Women kept shops and were members of the
Merchant Company. Many women were “roupers” or auctioneers who
settled the estates of the deceased or of shopkeepers giving up business.
Women provided lodgings for rent, and worked as sick-nurses and
gravesclothes makers. Sanderson concludes that “far from being
cocooned in a domestic world, women from all kinds of backgrounds,
single, married, and widowed, were actively operating in the same world
as their male counterparts.”204
Women were also found as managers in factories, typically where the
work was done by women or children. In 1833 a ¬‚ax mill owned by
Mr. Hammonds had a woman as an overlooker; a former overlooker told
a parliamentary investigator, “I think he has got a young woman there
now for overlooker.”205 George Courtland™s daughters worked as
overseers in his Essex silk mill.206 Women overlookers were common in
rag-cutting rooms of paper factories; an 1843 parliamentary study ¬nds
a number of them in Kent: Elizabeth Tirker, aged 40, at Spring¬eld
Mill; Sarah Bridgeland at Messrs. Smith and Allnutt; Harriett Lovelock
at Hayle Mill; Mary Wright at Beech Mill.207

201
W. Kendrick, “Cast Iron Hollow-ware, Tinned and Enamelled, and Cast Ironmongery,”
in Samuel Timmins, ed., The Resources, Products, and Industrial History of Birmingham
and the Midland Hardware District (London: Robert Hardwicke, 1866), p. 109. He is
quick to note that the use of women as casters “has, happily, been discontinued.”
202
Nicola Phillips, Women in Business, 1700“1850 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2006),
p. 130.
203
BPP 1843 (431) XIV, pp. 610“11. 204 Sanderson, Women and Work, p. 2.
205
BPP 1833 (450) XX, C1, p. 74, evidence of Mark Best.
206
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 251.
207
BPP 1843 (431) XIV, pp. a2, a5, a6, a30.
68 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

If all of the work done by women was recorded, the distribution of
women workers would be more evenly spread across the trades. Unfor-
tunately, many of the women who worked in trades remain invisible
because they worked with their husbands and were never counted as
working on their own account. In his autobiography, James Hopkinson
said of his wife, “I found I had got a good and suitable companion one
with whom I could take sweet council and whose love and affections
was only equall™d by her ability as a business woman.”208 Many of
these women worked in trades where recorded women workers are
infrequently found. Women rarely worked independently in printing,
but some women did assist their husbands in this trade. The memoirs
of one printer brie¬‚y mention this type of assistance: “How she labored
at the press and assisted me in the work of my printing of¬ce, with a
child in her arms, I have no space to tell.”209 In heavier trades wives
probably participated less in the actual production process. Jordan
claims, “In most such trades [millwrights, blacksmiths], a master crafts-
man™s wife might handle much of the business side of the enterprise,
but male apprentices, rather than wives and daughters, were used as
assistants.”210 But in trades where strength was less important, wives
seem to have acted as assistants to their husbands. Since women were
so closely involved in their husbands™ trades, they were often able to
continue these businesses as widows. Most guilds acknowledged the
right of a widow to become a freewoman in her husband™s trade, based
on the assumption that she had learned the trade while assisting her
husband.211
In the professions, women were most commonly found as teachers.
Women taught as governesses, as schoolmistresses in schools run by
others, and in schools they ran themselves. Anyone could open a school,
and many women who had no other opportunities did just that. For
example, when Mrs. Weeton, wife of a sea captain, was widowed in 1782
she supported her two children by opening a school in Up Holland,
Lancashire.212 In 1840 the wife of James Hitching, a Gloucester
weaver, earned 2s. a week by running a school. She had twelve stu-
dents and charged 2d. each.213 Schoolmistresses could be found

208
James Hopkinson, Victorian Cabinet Maker: The Memoirs of James Hopkinson, 1819“
1894, ed. Jocelyne Baty Goodman (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1968), p. 96.
209
Memoirs of J. B. Leno, quoted in Sonya Rose, “Gender Antagonism and Class
Con¬‚ict: Exclusionary Strategies of Male Trade Unionists in Nineteenth-Century
Britain,” Social History 13 (1988), p. 203.
210
Jordan, “The Exclusion of Women,” p. 295. 211 See Chapter 5.
212
Catherine Hall, White, Male and Middle-Class: Explorations in Feminism and History
(New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 172.
213
BPP 1840 (220) XXIV, p. 426.
Women™s occupations 69

throughout the whole range of the social scale, from cheaper schools
for the working class, to Mrs. Harvest™s “ladies boarding school” in
Manchester.214 Neither sex dominated in this occupation; in Manchester
in 1788, 37 percent of the school teachers were women, and in Derby
in 1850, 57 percent were women.215 Teachers and schoolmasters were
56 percent female in the 1841 census and 63 percent female in the
1851 census.216
In other professions, women were less common, but still participated.
Though their number was diminishing, women still practiced various
forms of medicine in the late eighteenth century. Female midwives were
being replaced by male practitioners, but still existed. These women
were less well paid for their services than male physicians. Eden includes
in the budget of a poor family 5s. as the price of a midwife.217 By
contrast, in 1819 the “Medical Gentlemen of Blackburn” recommended
fees of 15s. to 21s. for midwifery services.218 The lower status of female
midwives may have caused them to be underrecorded. The 1824“5
directory of Manchester lists no female midwives, but the directory™s
description of the Lying-In Hospital includes twenty-four female mid-
wives and only nine male midwives. Importantly, the men listed are
given much greater importance in the listing; the men are listed near the
top, and the women are listed after the “Ladies Auxiliary.”219 Though
the more prestigious occupation of physician was closed to them,
women could become apothecaries or surgeons by apprenticeship.220
Wyman documents the case of a girl apprenticed to a surgeon in 1729,
and gives examples of payments made to women for cures throughout
the eighteenth century.221 Women™s employment in these areas was
declining, though, and the 1841 census lists only 1384 female midwives
and no female physicians, surgeons or apothecaries, compared with
1476 male physicians and 18,658 male surgeons, apothecaries, and


214
Lewis™s Manchester Directory for 1788.
215
Ibid., and Slater™s Royal, National and Commercial Directory and Topography of the Counties
of Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Monmouthshire, Northamptonshire,
Nottinghamshire, Rutlandshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, and Worcestershire
(Manchester: Isaac Slater, 1850).
216
BPP 1844 (587) XXVII and 1852“3 (1691) LXXXVIII.
217
The family is from Cumwhitton, Cumberland. Eden, State of the Poor, vol. II, p. 74.
218
Rules and Regulations Agreed and Entered into by the Medical Gentlemen of Blackburn, 1819,
quoted in Anne Digby, Making a Medical Living: Doctors and Patients in the English Market
for Medicine, 1720“1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), p. 255.
219
Pigot and Dean™s Directory for Manchester, p. 277.
220
Digby, Making a Medical Living, p. 16.
221
A. L. Wyman, “The Surgeoness: The Female Practitioner of Surgery 1400“1800,”
Medical History 28 (1984), pp. 22“41.
70 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

medical students.222 The 1851 census does not list opticians as a sep-
arate category, but we know there was at least one female optician; Mary
Ann Godfrey worked as an optician in Birmingham in 1850.223 Women
sometimes worked as veterinarians. In the farm accounts of a Shropshire
farm in 1746 we ¬nd a woman veterinarian; the farmer paid 2s. 6½d.
“To the Widdow Walker for curing the Sick Cattle.”224 In 1824“5, Ann
Cooper was one of four veterinary surgeons in Manchester.225
Women authored both ¬ction and non-¬ction books. Some of the
most famous novelists of the period were women. Charlotte and Emily
Bront‚¬, George Eliot, and Jane Austen are well known, but there were
e
other women novelists who are not as well known today, including
Fanny Burney, Sarah Fielding, Elizabeth Gaskell, Eliza Haywood, and
Frances Trollope. Hannah More™s writing included works on religion
and morals, and she was an in¬‚uential intellectual ¬gure.226 Catherine
Macaulay wrote History of England from the Accession of James I to the
Elevation of the House of Hanover, volume I of which appeared in 1763.
The book was immediately recognized as an authoritative history and
was widely used in dissenting academies.227 Mrs. Jane Marcet wrote
books on chemistry and economics.228 Her chemistry book was so
popular that it went through at least eight editions in England and nine
in America.229 These women authors were generally from the higher
classes, as education was necessary for this work. A woman could make
good money as an author; Jane Taylor earned £150 in 1810 for her book
Hymns for Infant Minds.230 Women also published books; 10 percent of
publishing houses were run by women.231 The ¬rst daily English news-
paper, The Daily Courant, was started by Elizabeth Mallett in 1702.232
If we look closely, we ¬nd women working in occupations not con-
sidered “women™s work,” some of them in skilled occupations and in
positions of authority. While men and women generally worked in

222
BPP 1844 (587) XXVII. 223 Slater™s Royal, National Commercial Directory.
224
Rural History Centre, Reading, SAL 5/1/1. April 16, 1746.
225
Pigot and Dean™s Directory for Manchester.
226
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, pp. 167“72.
227
Because the History was written from a republican point of view, it was widely read in
dissenting academies. See Bridget and Christopher Hill, “Catherine Macaulay and the
Seventeenth Century,” Welsh History Review 3 (1967), pp. 381“402.
228
Her books include Conversations on Political Economy (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees,
Ormen and Brown, 1819); John Hopkin™s Notions on Political Economy (Boston: Allen
and Ticknor, 1833); Mary™s Grammar (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Ormen and
Brown, 1835); and Conversations on Nature and Art (London: J. Murray, 1837“8).
229
Jane Marcet, Conversations on Chemistry, 9th American edn from the 8th London edn
(Hartford: Oliver Cooke, 1824).
230
Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, p. 67.
231
Simonton, European Women™s Work, p. 61. 232 Phillips, Women in Business, p. 207.
Women™s occupations 71

different occupations, we must not forget that this generalization
describes only central tendencies, and not every working woman. The
wide spread of women™s work suggests that the barriers to women™s
employment were not absolute or ubiquitous.

Conclusion
While the occupational distributions of male and female workers dif-
fered widely in the Industrial Revolution labor market, the participation
of women was widespread and not strictly con¬ned to a small set of
occupations. Work patterns changed during the Industrial Revolution,
as textile factories emerged and replaced older cottage industries. The
¬‚exibility of the employment patterns suggests that work patterns were
able to respond to changes in economic incentives, but gender seems to
have played an important role in determining an individual™s occupa-
tion. Chapter 3 will present two closely related models explaining why
there was such a pronounced division of labor by gender, but before
moving to explanations of occupational sorting we will ¬rst consider
women™s wages. The next chapter will examine how women™s wages
compared with men™s wages, establishing the size of the wage gap, and
offering some explanations for it.
2 Women™s wages




It is not easy to account for so striking an inequality; and still less easy
F. M. Eden, 17971
to justify it.
The strength required for the work performed by men effectively prevents
women from being employed in it; and the lower rate of wages for which
they work has not had any tendency, therefore, to make them more
Alfred Austin, parliamentary investigator, 18432
generally employed.

In the last chapter we saw that women and men tended to work in
different occupations, though the sorting was not perfect and we ¬nd
women working in a great range of occupations. This chapter will
investigate gender differences in wages. I will ¬rst establish the size of the
wage gap, and then move on to the question of why it existed. Measuring
the size of the wage gap may seem straightforward, but it is in fact
complicated because, as we shall see, measurement error in many cases
leads to an incorrect assessment of the gap. Understanding the causes of
the wage gap is even more dif¬cult because both custom and market
forces pushed women™s wages below men™s wages, making it dif¬cult to
determine which was the fundamental cause of wage differences.
Women™s wages were clearly lower than men™s. Historians generally
accept that women™s wages were between one-third and one-half as
much as men™s wages. Here are some examples of historians™ conclu-
sions about the gender wage gap:
If we compare male and female average day rates in nineteenth-century agriculture,
women usually earned between one-third and a half of the male day rate.3
It is generally assumed that women by custom received one-third to one-half of
the wage of men.4
Women™s wages average out at a third of a comparable male wage across the time
period 1780“1840.5

1
Eden, State of the Poor, vol. II, p. 47. 2 BPP 1843 (510) XII, p. 27.
3
Verdon, Rural Women Workers, p. 126.
4
Maxine Berg, “What Difference Did Women™s Work Make to the Industrial Revolution?”
History Workshop Journal 35 (1993), p. 31.
5
Sharpe, Adapting to Capitalism, p. 146.

72
Women™s wages 73

Much of the evidence of women™s wages in the early period of industrialization is
partial and piecemeal, yet that which does exist suggests levels of at most 50 per
cent to the male wage.6

Table 2.1 gives male and female wages in a variety of occupations and
generally supports the conclusions given above. There are numerous cases
where the wage ratio is above, and sometimes well above, 50 percent, but
women never earned the same wages as men. The wages are compiled
from contemporary sources, most of them from parliamentary committees
or observers such as Arthur Young. As much as possible, I have tried to
compare male and female wages for the same work, but the work done may
not match exactly. For example, the agricultural wages may have been
given to men for ploughing and to women for weeding. All the evidence
con¬rms that women™s wages were less than men™s wages, and the wage
ratio usually ranged somewhere between one-third and two-thirds.
Table 2.1 is divided into separate sections for time-rate wages and
piece-rate wages (plus a third section for cases where the type of pay-
ment is not known) because each type of wage must be interpreted
differently. Time-rate wages were paid for a unit of labor measured by
the day or week. Differences in male and female time-rate wages could
occur because the de¬nition of the day or week differed, or because men
and women were paid different wages for the same unit of time input. If
the latter was the case, the wage differences may have resulted from
differences in productivity or from wage discrimination, or from a
combination of both.
Many workers during this period, though, were paid per unit of output
rather than per unit of time. For example, weavers were paid per yard of
cloth, rather than per day. In domestic industry employers could not
accurately measure the amount of time the workers put in, and paid the
workers for their output. The “piece-rate” wages in Table 2.1 are
reported as daily or weekly earnings because contemporary observers
were concerned about the workers™ living standards and generally
reported the typical earnings of piece-rate workers rather than the price
per unit of output. A parliamentary committee investigating the eco-
nomic distress of weavers was more interested in what a typical weaver
earned in a week than the speci¬c prices paid for each type, width, and
length of cloth. Gender differences in these weekly earnings could be
due either to differences in the piece-rate paid to men and women, or to
differences in the amount of output they produced in a typical week.


6
Katrina Honeyman, Women, Gender and Industrialization in England, 1700-1870 (New
York: St. Martin™s Press, 2000), p. 54.
74 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain
Table 2.1. Women™s wages compared to men™s

Year Place Task Women Men Ratio Src

A: Time-rate wages
Agriculture
1650 Somerset Hay 8d./dy 12d./dy 0.67 a
Corn harvest 1s./dy 1s.2d./dy 0.86 a
1684 West Yorkshire Reaping 11d./dy 13d./dy 0.85 b
1686 Staffordshire Reaping 6d./dy 12d./dy 0.50 c
1696 West Yorkshire Harvest 8d./dy 12d./dy 0.67 b
Hay 6d./dy 12d./dy 0.50 b
1706 West Yorkshire Reaping 8d./dy 12d./dy 0.67 b
1730s Westmorland Winter 4d./dy 6d./dy 0.67 d
Summer 6d./dy 8d./dy 0.75 d
1752 Leyburn, North
Yorkshire Reaping 6d./dy 10d./dy 0.60 e
1770 Howden, North
Yorkshire Hay 6d./dy 1s.2d./dy 0.43 f
1770 Schorton, North
Yorkshire Winter 5d./dy 1s./dy 0.42 f
1770 Gilling, North
Yorkshire Harvest 1s.3d./dy 2s.6d./dy 0.50 f
Winter 5d./dy 10d./dy 0.50 f
1789 Hertfordshire 6d./dy 8s./wk 0.38 g
1790s Perthshire Harvest 5.8s./wk 8s./wk 0.73 h
1795 Hoth¬eld, Kent Winter 8d./dy 1s.6d./dy 0.44 g
Summer 10d./dy 2s./dy 0.42 g
1795 Orton,
Westmorland Harvest 10d./dy 1s./dy 0.83 g
1796 Northumberland 8d./dy 10s./wk 0.40 g
1796 Nuneham,
Oxfordshire 3s./wk 8s./wk 0.38 g
1796 Walton Upon Thames, 1s./dy 10s.“12s./wk 0.55 g
Surrey
1796 Southam,
Warwickshire Summer 6d./dy 7s./wk 0.43 g
1796 Sneed, Wiltshire Hay harvest 8d./dy 1s.6d./dy 0.44 g
1700s Near London Market
gardens 5s.“7s./wk 10s.“12s./wk 0.55 i
1807 Clifton, Oxfordshire 8d./dy 9s./wk 0.44 k
1807 Tetsworth,
Oxfordshire Spring 8d./dy 10s./wk 0.40 k
1807 Bignal, Oxfordshire Harvest 1s.6d./dy 20s./wk 0.45 k
1807 Heyford, Oxfordshire Hay 8d./dy 12s./wk 0.33 k
1807 Wormsley, Oxfordshire Winter 8d./dy 10s./wk 0.40 k
Spring 8d./dy 11s./wk 0.36 k
1807 Average of
Oxfordshire Spring & hay 9d./dy 11s.6d./wk 0.39 k
Harvest 1s.2d./dy 19s./wk 0.37 k
Women™s wages 75
Table 2.1. (cont.)
Year Place Task Women Men Ratio Src

1833 Cumrew, Cumberland Summer 6s./wk 12s./wk 0.50 l
1833 Ingatestone, Essex Summer 5s./wk 11s./wk 0.45 l
1833 Starstone, Norfolk 7d./dy 10s./wk 0.35 l
1833 Llandillo, Brecon Summer 8d./dy 9s./wk 0.44 l
1838 Bath, Somerset Summer 1s./dy 2s.2d./dy 0.46 m
Winter 10d./dy 1s.9d./dy 0.48 m
1838 Frome, Somerset 8d./dy 1s.4d./dy 0.50 m
1838 Bromsgrove,
Worcestershire 8d./dy 1s.8d./dy 0.40 m
1838 Martley,
Worcestershire 6d./dy 1s.4d./dy 0.38 m
1838 Pershore,
Worcestershire 6d./dy 1s.4d./dy 0.38 m
1838 Worcester,
Worcestershire 9d./dy 1s.6d./dy 0.50 m
1838 Gloucestershire
average 8.5d./dy 17.25d./dy 0.49 m
1843 Wiltshire 3s.“4s./wk 9s./wk 0.39 n
1843 Scotland average 4.3s./wk 9.1s./wk 0.47 h
Domestic labor
1766 Kent Servants £3/yr £12/yr o
1776 Kent Servants £4/yr £8.8s./yr o
1796 Kent Servants £5.12s./yr £8.8s./yr o
1800 Middlezoy,
Somerset 8d./dy p
1833 Kirk Langley,
Derbyshire Washing 1s./dy l
1833 Spring¬eld, Essex Washing 3s.“4s./wk l
1833 Clifton, Charring,
Gloucestershire washing 1s.“1s.6d./dy l
1833 Mortlake, Surrey Charring 2s./dy l
1833 Mortlake, Surrey Washing,
ironing 3s./dy l
1833 Fenny Compton,
Warwickshire Charring 6d.“9d./dy l
1833 Potter Newton,
W. Yorks. Washing 1s./dy l
1839 Crosdale, Co.
Durham Washing 1s.6d./dy q
Schoolmaster / schoolmistress
1816 Parochial Charity School, Spital¬elds £38/yr £85/yr 0.45 r
1816 Protestant Dissenters School, £40/yr £60/yr 0.67 r
Spital¬elds
1819 Charity School, New Town, nr £35/yr £60/yr 0.58 r
Spital¬elds
1820 Bethnal Green National School £40/yr £70/yr 0.57 r
1840 Witham National School, Essex £35/yr £55/yr 0.64 s
76 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain
Table 2.1. (cont.)

Year Place Task Women Men Ratio Src

Workhouse master / matron
1783 Isle of Wight £30/yr £40/yr 0.75 g
1787 Manchester £36/yr £45/yr 0.80 g
1788 Birmingham £20/yr £52.10s./yr 0.38 g
1791 Bristol £30/yr £50/yr 0.60 g
1792 Wolverhampton, Staffordshire £10/yr £30/yr 0.33 g
1793 Isle of Wight £30/yr £50/yr 0.60 g
1795 St. Martin in the Fields, Middlesex £20/yr £50/yr 0.40 g
1795 Gressinghall, Norfolk £25/yr £65/yr 0.38 g
Other salaried
1787 Birmingham Vestry clerk £52.10s./yr g
1790 Shef¬eld Vestry clerk £20/yr g
1790 Shef¬eld Collector of £60/yr g
rates
1790 Shef¬eld Surgeon of £50/yr g
workhouse
1794 Kendal, Apothecary £50/yr g
Westmorland
B: Earnings on piece-rate work
Spinning
1737 South of England 6d./dy g
1767 Witney Woolle 10d.“1s./dy t
1770 Leeds, West Yorks. Wool 2s.6d.“3s./ f
wk
1770 Kiplin Flax 4d./dy f
1770 Kendal, Westmorland Wool 4s.6d.“5s./ f
wk
1770 Manchester Cotton 2s.“5s./wk f
1787 South of England 7d./dy g
1795 Cumberland Wool 4d.“6d./dy g
Derby Cotton 3s.“5s./wk g
Lancashire Wool 3s.“4s./wk g
Leicester Worsted 6d.“10d./dy g
Worcester 4d.“9d./dy g
Yorkshire 3d.“5d./dy g
1795 Oldham, Lancashire Jenny 16s.“17s./wk u
spinning
Factory
1830 Manchester Mule 12s.“14s./wk 25s.“30s./wk 0.47 v
spinning
1833 Perthshire Mule 9s.“11s./wk 13s.“16s./wk 0.69 w
spinning
1833 Perthshire Mule 10s.“14s./wk w
spinning
Throstle 6s.“7s./wk w
spinning
Women™s wages 77
Table 2.1. (cont.)
Year Place Task Women Men Ratio Src

Handloom weaving
1795 Norwich 5s.“6s./wk 7s.“8s./wk 0.73 g
1795 Kendal, 4s./wk 8s.“12s./wk 0.40 g
Westmorland
1824 Knaresborough Linen 5s.6d./wk 11s.“12s./wk 0.48 x
1840 Braintree, Essex Silk 5s.1d./wk 7s.2d./wk 0.71 y
1840 Gloucestershire Wool 7s./wk 11s.10d./wk 0.59 y
Lace
1795 Buckinghamshire 8d.“9d./dy g
Bedford 8d.“10d./dy g
1833 Bedfordshire 2s./wk l
Straw-plaiting
1795 Bedfordshire 6s.“12s./wk g
1833 Bedfordshire 5s.“10s./wk l
1833 Essex 3s./wk l
1843 Blything, Suffolk 6d.“8d./dy z
Gloves
1770 Worcester 4s.“5s./wk 7s.“9s./wk 0.56 f
1807 Woodstock, Oxford- Leather 21s.“30s./wk k
shire cutters
Sewing 8s.“12s./wk k
1840 Torrington, Devon Sewing 3s.6d./wk y
Metals
1790s Birmingham Toy trades 7s.“10s./wk 20s.“30s./wk 0.34 g
Mining
1724 Derbyshire Lead mining 3d./dy 5d./dy 0.60 aa
1769 North Yorkshire Lead mining 1s./dy 1s.3d./dy 0.80 f
1795 Derbyshire Washing 6d./dy u
lead ore
1833 Cornwall Copper and 6d./dy l
tin mines
Sewing
1800 Colchester Milliners, 6s./wk s
journey
women
1813 London Soldiers™ 5d./dy i
coats
1843 Blything, Suffolk 6d.“1s./dy z
1800 London Tailors 27s./wk y
1816 London Tailors 36s./wk y
C: Wage type unclear
Factories
1770 Knutsford, Cheshire Silk mill 4s.“5s./wk f
Thread 6s.“8s./wk f
factory
78 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain
Table 2.1. (cont.)

Year Place Task Women Men Ratio Src

1824 Glasgow Mule 15s.“18s./wk 23s.“24s./wk 0.70 x
spinning
1840 Norwich Silk mill 5s.5d./wk 14s.10d./wk 0.37 y
Misc.
1770 Burslem Pottery 5s.“8s./wk 7s.“12s./wk 0.68 f
workers
Pottery 7s.6d./wk 12s./wk 0.63 f
gilders
1770 Newcastle Hatters 3s.“6s./wk 7s.“10s./wk 0.53 f
1770 Shef¬eld Plating and 4s./wk 13s.6d./wk 0.30 f
cutlery
1813 London Compositors 33s./wk y
1843 London Bookbinders 12s./wk bb

Sources:
a. Assessed wages. Kelsall, “Wage Regulations,” p. 160.
b. West Yorkshire Archives Service, Leeds, TN/EA/12/11.
c. Roberts, “Sickles and Scythes.”
d. Gielgud, “Nineteenth Century Farm Women,” p. 150A.
e. Gilboy, “Labor at Thornborough.”
f. Young, Northern Tour.
g. Eden, State of the Poor.
h. Ian Levitt and Christopher Smout, “Farm Workers™ Incomes in 1843,” in T. M. Devine,
Farm Servants and Labour in Lowland Scotland, 1770“1914 (Edinburgh: John Donald,
1984).
i. George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century.
k. Young, General View of Oxfordshire.
l. BPP 1834 (44) XXX.
m. BPP 1837“8 (526) XVIII, Part III, Minutes of Evidence for June 25, 1838.
n. BPP 1843 (431) XIV.
o. Cash book of Lee Warly of Blean, Rural History Centre, KEN 14/2/1.
p. Devon Record Of¬ce, 880M/E3. Oct 29, 1800.
q. Durham Record Of¬ce, D/Sa/E181.
r. Phillip McCann, “Popular Education, Socialization, and Social Control: Spital¬elds
1812“1824,” in Phillip McCann, ed., Popular Education and Socialization in the Nineteenth
Century (London: Methuen, 1977).
s. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes.
t. Young, Southern Tour.
u. Aiken, A Description of the Country round Manchester.
v. Kirby and Musson, The Voice of the People, p. 109.
w. BPP 1833 (450) XX.
x. BPP 1824 (51) V.
y. BPP 1840 (43) XXIII.
z. Women and Children in Agriculture.
aa. Defoe, Tour.
bb. BPP 1843 (430) XIII.
Women™s wages 79
1.2
Lancashire Cotton

1 Gloucestershire Wool
Female Wage/Male Wage



0.8


0.6


0.4


0.2


0
Below 11
11 to 16
16 to 21
21 to 26
26 to 31
31 to 36
36 to 41
41 to 46
46 to 51
51 to 56
56 to 61
61 to 66
66 to 71
Age
Figure 2.1 The female“male wage ratio by age in textile factories
Source: BPP 1834 (167) XIX.

The wage gap between females and males was not constant through
the working life, but appeared in the teenage years and declined in old
age. Figure 2.1 shows how the wage gap varied with age for a sample of
factory workers in 1833, and Figure 2.2 shows the same relationship for
agricultural workers. Girls earned the same wages as boys, and occa-
sionally more, since girls mature earlier than boys. However, after age 16
boys quickly surpassed girls, and continued to earn more than women
throughout their lives. In older ages, however, the size of the wage gap
declined as male wages fell.
The existence of the wage gap between men and women is well known
and not disputed. What is disputed is the interpretation of this fact. On
one side there are those, generally economists, who assume that markets
function fairly well, and that wage differences must re¬‚ect differences in
productivity. On the other side are those who are more skeptical of the
degree to which wages were determined by markets, who emphasize the
customary nature of wages and interpret the wage differences as the
result of an ideology devaluing women.
Economic theory suggests that, in competitive markets, wages must
equal the marginal product of labor. Employers are assumed to maxi-
mize pro¬ts, and if the marginal product of labor was higher or lower
than the wage, employers would not be maximizing pro¬ts because they
could increase their pro¬ts by increasing or decreasing employment. In a
80 Gender, Work and Wages in Industrial Revolution Britain

1
Derbyshire
0.9
Gloucestershire

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