University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Graduate Workshop in Economic and Social History > The Enumeration of Women’s Work in the 19th Century Census (Some Evidence to Suggest It Was Not So Bad)

The Enumeration of Women’s Work in the 19th Century Census (Some Evidence to Suggest It Was Not So Bad)

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The nineteenth century census is a much maligned source, dismissed by such doyens of gender history as Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, ‘so unreliable as to be almost useless’. The work of women who were not heads of household, and particularly the wives of heads of households, has been presented as significantly under-enumerated. However, to date there are no empirical studies which support an outright indictment of all the nineteenth century censuses’ enumeration of all women’s work, and yet in much of the secondary literature this is how the evidence is framed. This paper presents the results of a nominal linkage exercise between a mid-century Hertfordshire trade directory and the 1851 census for the same county, in order to address the hypothesis that when women were ‘regularly employed’ they were fully enumerated in the census.

This talk is part of the Graduate Workshop in Economic and Social History series.

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