Despite the growth of women's history and rural social history in the past thirty years, the work performed by women who lived in the nineteenth-century English countryside is still an under-researched issue. Verdon directly addresses this gap in the historiography, placing the rural female labourer centre stage for the first time. The involvement of women in the rural labour market as farm servants, as day labourers in agriculture, and as domestic workers, are all examined using a wide range of printed and unpublished sources from across England. The roles village women performed in the informal rural economy (household labour, gathering resources and exploiting systems of barter and exchange) are also assessed. Changes in women's economic opportunities are explored, alongside the implications of region, age, marital status, number of children in the family and local custom; women's economic contribution to the rural labouring household is established as a critical part of family subsistence, despite criticism of such work and the rise in male wages after 1850. NICOLA VERDON is a Research Fellow in the Rural History Centre, University of Reading.
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