Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


In August 1646 William Gouge preached at the funeral of Margaret Ducke of Blackfriars and recalled how Margaret did ‘imploy her self, in looking well to the waies of her household’.1 Whilst it is unsurprising to find a minister whose most famous work focused on domestic duties praising one of his female parishioners in such fashion, the importance attached by contemporaries to good housewifery is referred to in less likely sources too. In February 1667 Samuel Pepys ‘lay long in bed, talking with pleasure with my poor wife how she used to make coal fires and wash my foul clothes with her own hands for me… for which I ought for ever to love and admire her, and do, and perswade myself she would do the same thing again if God should reduce us to it’.2 Elizabeth does not strike the reader of the diary as an exceptionally diligent housewife, but the efforts she made were clearly valued by Samuel. Treating housewifery as a form of unpaid yet essential labour, this chapter discusses the extent to which financial resources affected the ability of women to marry as well as the balance of authority within marriages, before examining the everyday domestic duties carried out by women for which they were praised, paying particular attention to their role in providing food and drink for guests and cohabitants, ensuring the cleanliness of the household and furnishing the domestic environment.


Seventeenth Century Social Rank Domestic Environment Household Good Early Modern Period 
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  1. 8.
    M. Chaytor, ‘Household and kinship: Ryton in the late 16th and early 17th centuries’, History Workshop journal, 10 (1980), p. 26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 17.
    Houlbrooke, English family, pp. 83–5; Ingram, Church courts, sex and marriage, pp. 130–1, 140–1, 199–200, 210–11; Erickson, Women and property, pp. 79–97; Mendelson and Crawford, Women in early modern England, pp. 122–3; S. Hindle, ‘The problem of pauper maniage in seventeenth-century England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 6th series, 8 (1998), pp. 71–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. A. L. Erickson, ‘Coverture and capitalism’, History Workshop Journal, 59 (2005), pp. 3–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 31.
    C. Banon, C. Coleman and C. Gobbi, ‘The London journal of Alessandro Magno 1562’, London Journal, 9 (1983), p. 144Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Tim Reinke-Williams 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social SciencesUniversity of NorthamptonUK

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