Female Agency in the Urban Economy

Gender in European Towns, 1640-1830
Simonton, Deborah
Montenach, Anne
Date published: 
April 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. 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, exploiting loopholes and contradictions to achieve economic independence and power.