Women and Work in Seventeenth-Century London
Author(s): Laura Gowing
Publication Date: 16-12-2021
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Ingenious Trade recovers the intricate stories of the young women who came to London in the late seventeenth century to earn their own living, most often with the needle, and the mistresses who set up shops and supervised their apprenticeships. Tracking women through city archives, it reveals the extent and complexity of their contracts, training and skills, from adolescence to old age. In contrast to the informal, unstructured and marginalised aspects of women's work, this book uses legal records and guild archives to reconstruct women's negotiations with city regulations and bureaucracy. It shows single women, wives and widows establishing themselves in guilds both alongside and separate to men, in a network that extended from elites to paupers and around the country. Through an intensive and creative archival reconstruction, Laura Gowing recovers the significance of apprenticeship in the lives of girls and women, and puts women's work at the heart of the revolution in worldly goods.
- Uses individual case-studies and legal depositions to place the reader directly in the houses, shops and streets of early modern London
- Reconstructs a whole group of neglected women, their connections, and their capacity to shape their economic worlds
- Connects female apprenticeship with the bigger picture of work, trade and consumer goods in the 17th century