The ideal family of the 19th century looked like a holiday postcard. Beautiful, well-behaved children, fathers and mothers resting after work, engaging in household chores with a smile.
In reality, things were far from rosy. Often, women who “shouldn’t have had to work” were forced to work in order to support their families.
Women’s work was paid much less than men’s, and not all types of activities were available to them.
Women from noble families couldn’t do the same work as those from lower classes.
The available activities included sewing, embroidery, and knitting on demand.
To truly make a living, one would have to work 14-16 hours a day.
In many trades, women did most of the work.
The production of hats, dolls, various decorations, and household items was often undertaken by women.
The owner sold the finished products, and the workers received meager wages.
Laundresses and dyers were considered the most demanding jobs.
Women had to deal with corrosive, often harmful substances and stand in water for half a day.
There were often occupational complaints, problems with the back, breathing, and joints.
Sometimes laundresses also acted as nurses, washing and dressing bedridden patients.
There were also professions considered originally female, such as matchmakers or midwives.
So women of all social classes often had to work, even at a time when women officially “didn’t work.”