1st Edition

Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century England 'On the Town'

By Rosemary Sweet, Penelope Lane Copyright 2003

    Despite the considerable volume of research into various aspects of the social and economic, cultural and political history of eighteenth-century British towns, remarkably little has focused upon, or even reflected upon the distinctive experience of women in the urban context. Much of what research there is has explored the experience of laboring or impoverished women, or women of the social elite; by contrast, the essays in this collection take up the study of the participation of middling women in urban life. This volume brings into sharper focus the relationship between changes consequent upon urban development and shifts in the pattern of gender relations in the 18th century. The contributors address such themes as the extent to which to what extent urban change accelerated a redefinition of gender relations; the connections between urban growth, changing definitions of citizenship, and the emergence of the male gendered political subject; the role of women in a literate, consumer and industrializing society; the place of women's networks in the economic, political and social life of the town and the distinctive role played by women in areas such as philanthropy and business; and how the development of urban society in turn inflected contemporary conceputalizations of gender.

    Contents: Preface; Introduction, Rosemary Sweet; Women and civic life in 18th-century England, Rosemary Sweet; The Rag plot: the politics of influence in Oxford, 1754, Elaine Chalus; Women as objects and agents of charity in 18th-century Birmingham, Sylvia Pinches; Urban businesswomen in 18th-century England, Christine Wiskin; Women entrepreneurs and urban expansion: Manchester, 1760-1820, Hannah Barker and Karen Harvey; Prudent luxury: the metropolitan tastes of Judith Baker, Durham gentlewoman, Helen Berry; Women in towns as keepers of the word: the example of Warwickshire during the 1780s and 1830s, Denise Fowler; Mary Chandler's Description of Bath (1733): a tradeswoman poet of the Georgian urban renaissance, David E. Shuttleton; Bibliography; Index.


    Rosemary Sweet, Penelope Lane

    'This is a very useful collection for students and scholars, firmly redefining women in the urban picture.' Economic History Review '... a useful addition to reading lists.' H-Net Review