Across Europe, windowed and single women claimed a place for themselves in the urban economy through their work and business roles. Through marriage, most women gained strength, position and status in the patriarchal society of the eighteenth century. Yet, singletons could utilise an array of resources not only to navigate but also to derive a good living from this world. The purpose of this chapter is to look at the variety and range of ways single women (interpreted broadly) negotiated these commercial worlds, looking at their approach to business and the strategies they employed. It draws on towns in Britain as well as on commercial centres of continental Europe. It will address the issue of how the gendered structure of the growing commercial town influenced singletons’ activities and conversely how the important contributions women made to the urban economy shaped that economy and contemporaries understanding of it. Widows and singlewomen were at different points in the lifecycle and this chapter highlights the importance of lifecycle on urban activities and place. It is deliberately transnational in order to draw out a fuller and more nuanced picture of the role of these women and their relationships within the transnational urban economy. It is based on primary research as well as the number of micro studies which have touched on or addressed widows and singlewomen. It also links to the growing interest in singletons and recognizes the importance of lifecycle when exploring female agency.
Female Agency in the Urban Economy,: Gender in European Towns, 1640-1830, 2013, p. 93-115
Gender; urban history; Agency theory; single women; widows; guilds; business history