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Volume Article Contents. Women and Work in Eighteenth-Century France. Mary McAlpin. Oxford Academic.


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Women and society in eighteenth century England 1

You do not currently have access to this article. Download all figures. Sign in. You could not be signed in. Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? When details of the value of stolen items can be compared with the amount they raised as pledges derived from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey , it was unusual for the lender to lend as much as half the cash value of the goods concerned, and in the majority of cases it was a good deal less than 40 per cent see Table 1.

Value of loans raised on items pawned, detailed in the Proceedings of the Old Bailey , — While pawnbroking may have overlapped with informal charity when favourable terms were arranged, for example, or debts forgiven , it also represented a break from it by requiring securities from which brokers could protect themselves from loss and from which enterprising women such as Carter and Hatchett were well-placed to profit. Carter swiftly took possession of the property when the porter was unable to keep up his weekly payments.

Both Carter and Hatchett were represented as having a sharp eye for opportunities to turn a profit and to diversify their interests. Besides lending money and storing the associated returns in clothing and household goods, witnesses described a wider range of investment strategies pursued by Carter and to a lesser extent by Hatchett.

Despite the fact that she was married for the bulk of the period which was being described, witnesses clearly assigned ownership of the goods they detailed to Carter, and credited her with considerable ability to generate income. Although part of Mary Lucas's strategy in attempting to secure any goods left by her deceased sister was to emphasise that Carter had been left a wealthy widow by Humphrey Carter who reportedly had left off his trade as a baker having somewhat implausibly made a fortune sufficient to live like a gentleman , this was a relatively minor part of the stories told by Lucas's witnesses.

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Although sharing very different motivations, Jennings's witnesses also positioned Carter as the dominant partner in her marriage to Humphrey. Claiming that he had been forced to leave off his trade because he was unable to repay his accumulated debts, they implied that he had been dependent upon his wife for his maintenance. Both women's husbands were represented as peripheral to their dealings.

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Hatchett lived apart from her husband, Alexander, for the best part of two decades. He constituted a shadowy figure in the case, described as a journeyman shoemaker in poor and miserable circumstances albeit in response to a question that sought to establish that Hatchett had no means other than the wages paid to her by the Carters on which to live. However, it appears that Alexander Hatchett's name was used in Hatchett's and possibly Carter's dealings in notes provided to secure their loans. Alexander Hatchett's was not the only name used in the promissory notes in Carter's and Hatchett's possession.

The leases to several tenements were purchased by Carter using her widowed mother's name, which she also used to secure loans in return for pawns. Carter's mother had also drawn up a letter of attorney to empower Hatchett to receive rents due to her from various tenants. Besides calling on the services of many proxies, it may well be that when functional Carter and Hatchett's partnership had also protected them from some of the constraints of coverture they faced as married women.

By remaining flexible about to whom debtors were legally obliged, they sidestepped the claims of their husbands to their earnings, but also and perhaps more importantly any claims of their husbands' creditors.


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  7. Both men were described as being heavily in debt. While it is clear that some married women used proxies and other devices to sidestep the constraints of marital property law to their sole advantage without the knowledge of their husbands , such negotiations could also serve the mutual interest of couples.

    These kinds of devices were undoubtedly part of the culture of popular legalism that could be exploited by spouses working together as well as manipulated by women alone in attempts to reduce their legal disadvantage. Both dynamics appear to have been at work in this case.

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    Whether or not their business dealings were fully endorsed by their husbands, Carter and Hatchett clearly enjoyed considerable latitude in relation to their spouses. And that they had solemnly protested before God that the longer Liver of them should have all that they were worth or to that effect. The professed intimacy between these two women, and the mutual interests it served, did not last, however. Paradoxically, it was only when their partnership broke down that coverture explicitly came into play. The newspaper advertisements placed by Carter and Hatchett around the time of Hatchett's trial for theft at the Old Bailey suggest that Humphrey Carter was quick to protect his own interests by claiming his right to his wife's property and by denying Elizabeth Hatchett's rights to it.

    In March , Carter placed a notice claiming that she had been robbed by Hatchett and requesting repayment of all the loans on notes she had in her possession. A further advertisement advised debtors not to pay any money to Elizabeth Carter but to apply themselves to Hatchett at the Oxford Bank in Forestreet, and Hatchett also offered a reward of 2 Guineas to anyone who could give notice of the whereabouts of Humphrey Carter so that a process at law could be served on him.

    Any slipperiness about what belonged to whom no longer served any party's interests, in ways which invoked the blurred boundary between exchange and theft as well as the fuzzy distinction between possession and ownership that plagued marital property law. There was a good deal more at work here, then, than coverture, which itself appears to have had a very selective, and not entirely debilitating, impact on Carter and Hatchett's enterprise.

    Concepts of coverture certainly did not prevent witnesses in this case from attributing skill, enterprise, resourcefulness and esteem to two married women working in partnership in the early eighteenth century, on the basis of which they amassed at the very least goods worth fighting an extensive legal battle over in court. The only point at which Carter and Hatchett appeared to have suffered coverture as a major hindrance was when their own relationship of trust broke down, at which point Humphrey Carter invoked his rights over his wife's property in order to protect himself, and possibly his wife, from the fall-out.

    It is likely that Elizabeth Carter's manipulation of the law of coverture was of benefit to her husband, whereas Elizabeth Hatchett apparently managed to distance herself successfully from any claims her husband might have had on her estate. It is perhaps unsurprising that witnesses who described the intimacy between Hatchett and Carter in positive terms emphasised its sisterly quality, given that such an analogy placed Hatchett's claims to Carter's goods on a comparable footing with those of Carter's actual sister, Mary Lucas, the plaintiff in the cause. However, the appeal to sisterly bonds in this case, as well as the echo of conjugal obligation attributed to Carter and Hatchett's relationship, serves as a reminder that legally cemented partnerships between sisters, as well as between unrelated women, could rival and did indeed sometimes compete with the conventions established by marital property law.

    These women were not simply serving their neighbourhood by offering small-scale loans inspired by the pragmatics of mutual reciprocity. They sought to turn a profit and amass a fortune, responding deftly and strategically to the range of opportunities available in a rapidly expanding and diversifying metropolis.

    This is not to argue that they operated on a level playing field, either with their husbands or with other men. While this case is exceptional in its level of detail, and may have involved the activities of two exceptional women, it is also worth noting that not a single witness implied that Carter and Hatchett's enterprise was out of the ordinary.

    Yet the activities detailed in this case might also speak to the quotidian experiences of women in early modern England, especially in terms of the borrowing they undertook, and the associated management of household resources. We might liken them to bankers, and should not be surprised to discover that they sought to do as much as possible to maximise their investments.

    The consequent asset management, which in an urban context like London some women were able to pursue on an extensive and commercially oriented scale, was, therefore, another form of married women's work which can be added to our growing appreciation of female enterprise as well as industriousness in a rapidly developing economy. Plumb Braddick Michael J.

    Social Condition of Women during Eighteenth Century in India

    Bauer Andreas and Welker Karl H. Cologne, [ Google Scholar ]. There is no surviving copy of Elizabeth Carter's will, but Elizabeth Hatchett was named as executrix on 10 Oct. The compilation of this dataset was funded by a research grant from the Economic and Social Research Council RES—23— and completed with the assistance of Dr Judith Spicksley, for which I am extremely grateful.

    Wright Nancy E. Toronto, [ Google Scholar ]. On goldsmith bankers, see Mitchell D. Several witnesses referred to other borrowers, whose residence was not detailed. Alexandra Palmer and Hazel Clark See also Sanderson, Women and Work , —7. On the material markers of gentility, see French H.

    Beattie and Stevens. On the indistinct relationship between consumption and saving in the early modern period, see Shepard, Accounting for Oneself. Campbell, The London Tradesman , —7. For a contemporary assessment of the interest accrued on loans secured with pledges, as well as the relative value of loans to pledges, see An Apology for the Business of Pawn-Broking On women's more formal investment practices in the eighteenth century, see Ann M.

    Carter also attended the vestry meetings of St Stephen Coleman Street between and , and served as a questman in , but he did not hold any other parish office. Hatchett was acquitted on both occasions. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. Cambridge University Press. Trans R Hist Soc. Alexandra Shepard. Copyright and License information Disclaimer.