Factory Families: Textile Work and Women’s Life Courses in Late Nineteenth-Century Derbyshire

Emma Diduch, University of Cambridge

In this research I construct a longitudinal dataset on women’s life courses in late nineteenth-century Derbyshire using a combination of census records, archival material, and marriage indexes. Most studies of census record linking confine themselves to male individuals because of the difficulty of identifying women in future records after marriage – maximizing the chances of matching individuals but creating unrepresentative samples of the historical population. This problem can be addressed by limiting geographic focus and therefore the universe of potential matches to make linking more efficient, and by introducing additional identifying information from other primary sources. My research will focus on the textile manufacturing districts of Derbyshire and a collection of archival materials from factories owned by WG and J Strutt Ltd. These not only allow fact-checking of the census’ categorization of women’s employment but will also allow a more detailed look at the conditions of work – wage levels, occupational segregation, withdrawal from work due to marriage or pregnancy, and education of child workers in factory schools. Linking women across censuses via records of their date of marriage and married name enables analysis of how early experiences of work and family histories influenced later decisions about age at marriage and marital fertility. Together these data will have the potential to address long-standing debates about fertility decline in England – including social and occupational gradients of decline, stopping versus spacing behavior, and interactions with trends in infant mortality.

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 Presented in Session 86. Unveiling the Dynamics of Women's Lives: Property Rights, Education, and Work in the Transformation of Fertility Patterns