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Women's work

Women's work

The Occupational Structure of Britain 1379-1911 programme has concentrated on male occupations because these are relatively easy to locate in the historical record and to accumulate quickly. There is currently very little quantitative data available on women's employment prior to the twentieth century. This matters because the only indications we have to date of female labour force participation rates (from the 1851 census and court records c.1700) is that, at the very least, half of all adult women were in regular employment. If women therefore constituted at least one third of the total work force, that proportion would have a substantial impact on occupational structure and conclusions about occupational structure based on male employment alone are necessarily misleading. Since 2005, we have surveyed all local record offices in England for sources which consistently record women's as well as men's work for the period up to 1851. Discussion of these sources, together with the publications, preliminary papers, and list of data sets produced so far, is found in the links below. We have now (2012) applied for funding for Work, Gender and Occupation in England 1500-1700, a project to analyse sources across England for both women's and men's non-market-oriented labour as well as occupations.