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Part of the Social History in Perspective book series (SHP)

Abstract

Between 1860 and 1900 many dramatic advances were seen in middle-class and elite women’s employment. Improvements in educational provision facilitated access to a whole range of new occupations, notably in the medical, clerical, retailing and education sectors. One recent commentator has attributed these developments to the activities of the feminist movement, and in particular, the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women.1 Feminist campaigns were undoubtedly vital in contributing to a climate in which women’s paid employment was increasingly acceptable. However, structural changes in the economy and the continued adherence to notions of gender difference were often more influential in determining the nature of women’s employment. Moreover, for the majority of women, this was period of a stasis, not change. Women continued to engage intraditional’ activities — such as domestic management, child care and philanthropy. Most women entertained a broad definition of work which did not necessarily encompass the concept of paid employment.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Ellen Jordan, The Women’s Movement and Women’s Employment in Nineteenth- Century Britain (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), pp. 195–7.Google Scholar
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    Details of these developments may be found in June Purvis, A History of Women’s Education in England (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1991), pp. 75–92;Google Scholar
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© Kathryn Gleadle 2001

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