Thursday, 23 June 2016

Employment opportunities for women in the 1780s

When Mary Bateman was arrested in London in 1788, she was working as a prostitute with a number of other young girls, for Elizabeth Sully.

The 1780s were a time of social upheaval in England resulting in many people, including women, from country areas travelling to the towns and cities searching for employment. However, at this time, a  number of issues impacted upon the potential employment of young women in the workforce.

  • One event which greatly impacted upon the employment opportunities for women was the disbanding of the British Amy with soldiers returning home in 1783 after the American War of Independence. Many of the former soldiers returned to the cities increasing the population and displacing women from the workforce. Many women who had worked in shops were forced from the workforce to be replaced by men. 

  • A Shop Servant tax was also imposed at this time. 

  • In 1785 a tax imposed upon the employment of Maid Servants above the age of 15 also resulted in many young girls and women being left without employment and / or accommodation. 
The Maid Servants Address to Master Billy Pitt

The following article provides an observer's view on new taxes in 1785 including Shop Servant tax and Maid Servants tax:
'Parliament: new taxes'. The Scots Magazine July 1785 p327. Google Books. Retrieved 23 June 2016.

For many women living in the cities, prostitution and crime associated with prostitution was the only way to survive. How Mary ended up working as a prostitute we can only surmise. We do know however that after her arrest on 20 April 1788 her life changed dramatically.

References and credits

This article was completed after the assignment deadline but is relevant to providing some background for Mary's story.

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