Female Agency in the Urban Economy: Gender in European Towns, 1640-1830

CouvertureDeborah Simonton, Anne Montenach (dir.), Female Agency in the Urban Economy: Gender in European Towns, 1640-1830, New York, Routledge, 2013.

This innovative new book is overtly and explicitly about female agency in eighteenth-century European towns. However, it positions female activity and decisions unequivocally in an urban world of institutions, laws, regulations, customs and ideologies. Gender politics complicated and shaped the day-to-day experiences of working women. Town rules and customs, as well as police and guilds’ regulations, affected women’s participation in the urban economy: most of the time, the formally recognized and legally accepted power of women – which is an essential component of female agency – was very limited. Yet these chapters draw attention to how women navigated these gendered terrains. As the book demonstrates, “exclusion” is too strong a word for the realities and pragmatism of women’s everyday lives. Frequently guild and corporate regulations were more about situating women and regulating their activities, rather than preventing them from operating in the urban economy. Similarly corporate structures, which were under stress, found flexible strategies to incorporate women who through their own initiative and activities put pressure on the systems. Women could benefit from the contradictions between moral and social unwritten norms and economic regulations, and could take advantage of the tolerance or complicity of urban authorities towards illicit practices. Women with a grasp of their rights and privileges could defend themselves and exploit legal systems with its loopholes and contradictions to achieve economic independence and power.

Table of contents

1. Introduction: Gender, Agency and Economy: Shaping the Eighteenth-Century European Town Anne Montenach and Deborah Simon-ton

Part 1: Markets and Brokerage

2. Legal Trade and Black Markets: Foodtrades in Lyon in the Late Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries Anne Montenach

3. On the Streets and in the Markets: Independent Copenhagen Saleswomen Carol Gold

4. Makeshift, Women and Capability in Pre-Industrial European Towns Laurence Fontaine

5. Women Patients in the English Urban Medical Marketplace in the Long Eighteenth Century Marjo Kaartinen

Part 2: Negotiating the Urban Economy

6. Widows and Wenches: Single Women in Eighteenth-Century Urban Economies Deborah Simonton

7. Guilds, Gender Policies and Economic Opportunities for Women in Early Modern Dutch Towns Danielle van den Heuvel

8. Women Working in Guild Crafts: Female Strategies in Early Modern Urban Economies Anna C. Fridrich

9. Legal Regulation in Eighteenth-Century Cologne: The Agency of Female Artisans Muriel González Athenas

Part 3: Gender, Agency and Relationships in the Urban Economy

10. Gender and Urban Land in Swedish Towns Åsa Karlsson Sjögren

11. Everyday Politics: Power Relations of Urban Female Servants in the Finnish City of Turku in the 1780s Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen

12. Women on Their Way: Employment Opportunities in Cosmopolitan Rome Eleonora Canepari

13. The Chosen Ones: Godmotherhood as a Networking Strategy in the Merchant Community of Pori, 1765-1820 Jarkko Keskinen

Afterword Anne Montenach and Deborah Simonton

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