Gendered occupations and opportunities: Women’s work, family life and independence in a few nineteenth-century towns in Sweden
Women’s work affects their demographic behavior and autonomy, but the latter also influences their inclination to involve themselves in family life or relocate. Some scholars argue that women’s employment impedes their engagement in family affairs, whereas others suggest that women’s access to income encourages marriage.
The project analyses nineteenth-century women and their occupations by linking them to their demographic situation in times that witnessed changing gender regimes, urban-industrial change and demographic transition. It explores women’s inclusion in the labor market and public sphere, and whether this entrance was accompanied by a desire for autonomy through work or guided by family circumstances.
Historical data insufficiently document women’s occupations. The project challenges this by using qualitative sources that report data on women’s life and work. Quantitative data offer demographic views of women that help explain their occupations and opportunities with regard to family background. The Demographic Database (DDB) at Umeå University has digitalized some parish registers, making the process of identifying women in other sources possible. This material allows for longitudinal life-course approaches and hints at women’s autonomy in relation to their demographic experiences. Four nineteenth-century towns that differed in socio-economic structure are analysed with regard to women’s occupations and demographic path, and to gender regimes and urban-industrial changes; factors which operate at both the individual and societal level and determine women’s position in family life and in the labor market, thereby shaping their occupational opportunities and degree of independence.