‘Working Mothers’ – An extract from Bread Winner by Emma Griffin

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The overlooked story of how ordinary women and their husbands managed financially in the Victorian era – and why so many struggled despite increasing national prosperity

Nineteenth-century British women were no strangers to working both in and out of the home. Still, and despite the increasing economic prosperity of Victorian Britain, women’s work continued to be undervalued and underpaid. Marriage did not always provide a reliant income, plunging families into poverty and forcing women back to the work force, either in factories or by undertaking more work at home.

Today’s extract is Chapter 6: ‘Toil in the factory, toil in the home’: Working Mothers’. In this chapter from Bread Winner: An Intimate Story of the Victorian Economy, Emma Griffin draws upon biographies of working class women, such as Sarah Geary and Deborah Smith, to explore the challenges of the daily life of Victorian working mothers.

Bread Winner by Emma Griffin

Bread Winner: An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy

By Emma Griffin

“Bread Winner is a love affair with life-writing. The extraordinary voices of the poor, the ambitious, the mobile and the utterly insignificant of Victorian Britain are brought together to tell us how they got by in a precarious world.”—Lucy Delap, author of Knowing Their Place


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