Gender and work in the Early Modern Period

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  • Gender and work in the Early Modern Period (according to Bernard Capp)
    • Farming
      • Most boys throughout Europe
        • destined for a life working the land
          • either on family  holding or by becoming a live-in farm servant in their teens
          • learnt skills on job
      • Many young women
        • Also helped on family farm or where hired as diary-maids
        • Expected and required, farmer's wife would play active role, taking responsibility for:
          • Poultry
          • Pigs
          • Vegetable garden
          • Running the diary
          • Helping with hay-making and harvest
    • In towns
      • Craft or trade
        • Minority of young men
        • Mostly from more prosperous backgrounds
        • Worked as apprentice and later journeyman for an established master
      • Family buisness (craft and trade)
        • often women worked alongside their husbands
          • women usually took charge of selling produce at market
        • Often a widow enjoyed the right to continue business after the husband's death
          • Increasingly, however, guild regulations wee tightening to exclude women from membership
        • Many powerful German guilds barred female servants from working in the shop, often master's wife, widow and daughters too
          • According to Wiesner
            • Women were seen as unwelcome competition
            • Mere presence of women (and that of lower-class or illegitimate men) was perceived as compromising 'honour' of guild
    • According to Perry
      • In Spain
        • Thousands of women entered silk-weavers' guild in Seville
        • By mid-C17th most had become ill-paid piece-workers, with guilds increasingly restricting freedom of women, even master-weavers' widows, to operate businesses independently
    • Almost everywhere, women were pushed into lowly and marginal occupations that had never been organised into guilds
      • In a few trades which men had never colonised, such as lace-making and millinery, they could sometimes earn reasonably good incomes
      • Far more often they entered  domestic service or worked in poorly paid activities such as:
        • Spinning
        • Knitting
        • Laundering
        • Sewing
        • Nursing
      • Women also worked in large numbers in alehouses, taverns and 'fast-food' urban cook-shops or as street vendors, and they dominated huge second-hand clothing market
    • Poor of both sexes would often follow several occupations, switching according to season and circumstance
      • According to Capp
        • Thus one woman explained in 1687 that she worked at home winding silk on rainy days, but as a porter at Leadenhall market when it was fine
      • Whatever they did, women generally had to juggle paid work with demands of child-care and running the home

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