|Ten-Shillings A Week’: How Did Women Manage [Households] in English Industrial Ports?|
|The ideas I will be discussing in my presentation come from studying late nineteenth and early twentieth century British ports, and one in particular which was the place where the progenitor of family allowances Eleanor Rathbone explored the household economy and the roles of men and women. Men’s absence as seafarers and their system of pay forced some significant adaptations of what was considered normal to male-breadwinning and female home-making roles. Closer inspection reveals however different things than Rathbone observed. Women were not so dependent on men and their wages as she claimed, but neither were they so much independent as historians have assumed to be the case where men’s absence was a significant phenomenon.
My comments are offered to complement Abreu-Ferreira’s and Polonia’s discussions of early modern Portuguese ports and to further our attempts to revise the too-simple notion that when seafaring men were away women ‘stepped into men’s shoes’. Further Schwarzkopf’s contribution to this panel is a study of the female factory workers of Lancashire and thus she will be speaking of towns close to the port I study, Liverpool. The contrast with the women she discusses who were conspicuous as waged workers fueled some contemporary discussions about what leverage women gained from their acknowledged monetary contributions to the home. These lead us to look more closely at the elisions in respect of women’s material agency in ports.