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Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France

edited by Nina Kushner

280 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

French History | Womens Studies

  Paperback / 9780807158319 / January 2015
In the eighteenth century, French women were active in a wide range of employments—from printmaking to running whole-sale businesses—although social and legal structures frequently limited their capacity to work independently. The contributors to Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France reveal how women at all levels of society negotiated these structures with determination and ingenuity in order to provide for themselves and their families.
Recent historiography on women and work in eighteenth-century France has focused on the model of the “family economy,” in which women’s work existed as part of the communal effort to keep the family afloat, usually in support of the patriarch’s occupation. The ten essays in this volume offer case studies that complicate the conventional model: wives of ship captains managed family businesses in their husbands’ extended absences; high-end prostitutes managed their own households; female weavers, tailors, and merchants increasingly appeared on eighteenth-century tax rolls and guild membership lists; and female members of the nobility possessed and wielded the same legal power as their male counterparts.
Examining female workers within and outside of the context of family, Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France challenges current scholarly assumptions about gender and labor. This stimulating and important collection of essays broadens our understanding of the diversity, vitality, and crucial importance of women’s work in the eighteenth-century economy.

Daryl M. Hafter is professor emerita of history at Eastern Michigan University. She is the author of Women at Work in Preindustrial France.

Nina Kushner is associate professor of history at Clark University. She is the author of Erotic Exchanges: The World of Elite Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Paris.

Praise for Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France

“The contributors to this volume offer fascinating insights into the wide range of work experiences of women in 18th-century France. . . . In addition to presenting original research, many of the essays include useful surveys of historiography. . . . Recommended.”—CHOICE

Women and Work, an informative and multi-layered study, is a welcome contribution to the economic history of early modern France, which has heretofore been highly male-centered. . . . This well-documented volume based on archival scholarship brings together significant new material on women’s work in eighteenth-century France by experts in their fields.”—Early Modern Women

“Daryl M. Hafter’s and Nina Kushner’s volume Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France explores its subject in a wide-ranging and fresh way. The essays examine work in the broadest possible sense of the word, spanning intellectual, manual, creative, and entrepreneurial labor. . . . A valuable perspective on women’s work, female professional identity, and the ways that women participated in the major shifts occurring in the eighteenth-century economy.”—American Historical Review

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