History from Underneath: Girls Experience in an Era of Economic Change

Dec 2019 | 175

Authors: Jane Humphries

The paper uses autobiographical accounts by 227 working women alongside a larger sample of men’s life stories to compare girl and boys’ experiences of first jobs, schooling and family life in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It asks whether girls were disadvantaged in seizing the opportunities and fending off the threats to wellbeing occasioned by economic change. Girls were more likely than boys to experience sexual harassment and this constrained the ways in which they could earn a living and live their lives. Fathers as breadwinners merited respect and often affection, but it was mothers with whom girls identified.

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