'Utterly Shameless Women': Images of women field workers

Sayer, Karen
March 1990
Labour History Review (Maney Publishing);Spring90, Vol. 55 Issue 1, p11
Academic Journal
This article examines public opinion of women field workers during 19th-century England. In 1843 women's field work was mainly seen as physically healthy and economically necessary. The women's apparent immoral behaviour in the fields was effectively put down to the need for a better upbringing, as if they were children doing wrong, but not to be blamed because they did not know better, unlike their middle-class counterparts. By the mid-1860s it was assumed that the women doing agricultural work were only those who had forfeited their chance to better employment, or whose habits are coarse and irregular. They were also described in masculine terms as independent and strangely bold in look and manner. By the early 1900s it was argued that they all but disappeared, which was supposed to reveal the improved condition of the farm labourer and his family.


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