Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

As the authors acknowledge, the effect which paid employment has on women and on the family is an old problem, but one which was still unresolved at the time they decided to write Women, Work, and Family. Some historians, such as Alice Clark, believed that industrial capitalism was responsible for the exclusion of women from paid employment, and thus played a crucial role in modern women’s oppression. Others, including Ivy Pinchbeck, insisted that the Industrial Revolution increased women’s employment opportunities and therefore was a liberating factor. Louise A. Tilly and Joan W. Scott seek to resolve this dispute by examining the impact of industrialization on female employment and on the family in Great Britain and France between 1700 and 1950.

Women, Work, and Family is divided into three parts. Part 1 examines the family economy in early modern France and Great Britain. Part 2 considers the family economy during the Industrial Revolution in those two countries. The third part traces the development of what Tilly and Scott call the family consumer economy in the period after the Industrial Revolution. Each part examines the nature of women’s work, the demographic forces shaping women’s lives, and the relationship between women’s paid labor and women’s position in the family. Twenty-four pages of notes and a nine-page bibliography enable the reader to evaluate the sources used by the authors and provide a useful guide for...

(The entire section is 480 words.)


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Women, Work, and Family is considered a classic in the field of women’s history because it effectively undermined the modernization model that portrayed industrialization as leading to women’s emancipation. It presents convincing evidence of the strong continuity in working-class women’s participation in the labor force during the two centuries prior to 1950. Throughout this period, most married women worked to provide financial assistance to other family members, rather than for their own individual interests. The authors also show that the typical female wage earner of the nineteenth century was not the relatively highly paid factory worker but someone who worked in areas, such as domestic service, that had been considered women’s work for centuries.


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Bradley, Harriet. Men’s Work, Women’s Work. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1989. A sociological account which examines the theories about why work is gendered, followed by case studies of the sex segregation of jobs in several industries. Bradley suggests that the most important feature of women’s paid employment is that women are invariably relegated to “women’s jobs” and thus limited in what they are permitted to do.

John, Angela V., ed. Unequal Opportunities: Women’s Employment in England, 1800-1918. Oxford, England: Basil Blackwell, 1986. A collection of essays on different aspects of women’s employment between 1800 and 1918 written from the perspective of the women who worked. The authors reinforce Tilly and Scott’s thesis about the continuity of women’s employment roles by demonstrating in detail how this was accomplished in specific industries.

Lewis, Jane. Women in England, 1870-1950: Sexual Divisions and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. An overview of the changes in women’s lives from 1870 to 1950 which pays special attention to the impact of economic and demographic forces. Although sensitive to class and other differences that separated women, Lewis views women as a gender group living in a man-made world.

Roberts, Elizabeth. A Woman’s...

(The entire section is 434 words.)