• Elizabeth C. Sanderson
Part of the Studies in Gender History book series (SGH)


There is no evidence in this study of women and work to suggest that in eighteenth century Edinburgh women were cut off from the wider community in a private world of domesticity. In the urban context at least, most women’s employment took them well outside the confines of their own homes. The examination of women’s employment and what it entailed, as revealed in the records, suggests that perhaps some historians of women’s history in the early modern period, may have been too preoccupied with women’s private versus public role in society. The preoccupation with women’s domestic role has caused women’s employment to be seen as a mere ‘extension of their household tasks’. However in eighteenth century urban Scotland, certainly in Edinburgh, working women are seen operating in the same world as their male counterparts. This study shows that men and women not only carried on their activities in the same world but had many common experiences. In the eighteenth century, women were part of the great web of credit, also acting as factrices for their husbands when the latter were away from home on business. Men gave women credit and stood caution for them when required, while men like Blackwood and Bell were willing to act as factors for them as they did for male merchants.


Eighteenth Century Family Business Work Designation Early Modern Period Mere Statistic 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    (Robert Cumming’s wife) See Chapter 4, p. 128.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Dorothy Thompson, ‘Women, Work and Politics in Nineteenth-Century England: The Problem of Authority’, in J. Rendali, ed., Equal or Different. Women’s Politics, 1800–1914 (Oxford, 1987) p. 62.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See page 150 above.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    N. McKendrick, J. Brewer and J.H. Plumb, eds, The Birth of a Consumer Society (London, 1982) p. 198.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Quoted in L. Rosner, Medical Education in the Age of Improvement (Edinburgh, 1991) p. 11.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    L. Bland, ‘The Married Woman, the “New Woman” and the Feminist: Sexual Politics of the 1890s’, in J. Rendali, ed., op. cit., p. 145.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    R.A. Houston, Scottish Literacy and the Scottish Identity (Cambridge, 1985) p. 58.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    M. Vicinus, Independent Women (Oxford, 1987) p. 220.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    (Anne Strachan), See Chapter 3, p. 105.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    J. Rendall, ‘“A Moral Engine”? Feminism, Liberalism and the English Woman’s Journal’ in J. Rendall, ed., op. cit., p. 121.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth C. Sanderson 1996

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  • Elizabeth C. Sanderson

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