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Survival strategies of single women in the Bruges countryside, 1814


  • Sofie De Langhe

    () (Department of History, Ghent University)

  • Isabelle Devos

    () (Department of History, Ghent University)

  • Christa Matthys

    () (Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock)


This paper explores the employment opportunities and subsistence strategies of single women in the countryside around Bruges on the basis of the census of 1814. This source enables us to provide an overview of the professions and household situations of more than 5000 single women above the age of 30. At that age, women exceeded the mean age of marriage and presumably had to develop very specific subsistence strategies. The census of 1814 allows us to look at the registered occupations for older single women in two different social agro-systems (polder and inland Flanders), but it also provides us with material to look more into depth at single women without a registered occupation. While these women were officially ‘without occupation’, they most probably did work. Information on household structures allows us to get an insight into the living arrangements and the activities of these women. From this perspective, the paper contributes to two important discussions, that is on the living conditions of single women, and those of rural women. While women in the city have attracted the most scholarly attention, the living conditions of rural women remain largely unexplored. Length: 16 pages

Suggested Citation

  • Sofie De Langhe & Isabelle Devos & Christa Matthys, 2013. "Survival strategies of single women in the Bruges countryside, 1814," EED-Working Papers 6, EED research unit, department of History, Ghent University.
  • Handle: RePEc:ghe:wpaper:6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pamela Sharpe, 1991. "Literally spinsters: a new interpretation of local economy and demography in Colyton in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 44(1), pages 46-65, February.
    2. Ogilvie, Sheilagh, 2003. "A Bitter Living: Women, Markets, and Social Capital in Early Modern Germany," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205548.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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