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Women And Their Roles In Pre-Industrial Europe

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Chaffee 1

Brandon Chaffee

AP European History/Honors English

Teagarden/Walker Periods 5-6

1 March 2005

The Women, Family, and Household of Pre-Industrial Europe

Many of people today feel trapped inside their homes, just how the women of Pre-

Industrial Europe felt. Working day in and day out inside the homes, just to keep the family together, and make a little money on the side, these women were an integral part of Pre-Industrial families. Not only were the women important to Pre-Industrial European families, but so were the households. Much of the money was made in the households, and this is where families either succeeded or failed. The household and women of Pre-Industrial Europe played an integral role in the economy of the families, and more importantly, the women of these households kept them running smoothly. Without either of these important aspects of life in Pre-Industrial Europe, it is safe to say that the families would have collapsed, due to a lack of organization and structures. Pre-Industrial Europe, in which the women and the household were "the factories" per se, due to the income they generated, was much different from the Europe we know today. Leading

into the Industrialization of Europe beginning in the late 1700's and lasting through the early 1800's, the household played an integral role in the family's income. Without the

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household, the families would literally collapse, due to a lack of organization and stability. Within these important family sub-units, there was one married couple, their children, the family's servants, and in some cases, depending upon the region of Europe, there were grandparents, aunts and uncles. Not only did the father and servants of the house work, but also the women and children. Also, in the case of there being more than one generation of family in a single household, depending upon the region of Europe, the grandparents, aunts, and uncles would also work within the house. Once the children of these households reached a certain age, usually the early teens, they were sent off to work in a house as a servant. These servants were different then the servants of today, as they worked for room, board, and food, not waiting on the family. Once they started to generate income, the teens would save up the money necessary to begin their own family. However, there were the few exceptions; teens that did not work as servants, and

ended up marrying into an existing household. This however, was a very uncommon

circumstance, as the majority of teens worked as a servant throughout their early teen years.

The families of Pre-Industrial Europe varied greatly depending upon the region, such as the Northwest. Such variables were the age men and women married, the age in which the teens moved away from the house to work, and also the family structure and size. In Northwestern Europe, the teens moved away from their homes at the ripe and young age of 13 years old. In order to find a place to live, the teens would have to work

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as a servant in a household until they were able to marry and start a household. The teens were usually not able to start their own family until the age of 24 years old. Another regional trait was the size of the families themselves. The families normally consisted of only 5-6 members, as the families were nuclear structured, not the extended-family type structure. An exception to this was the few wealthy families, which could grow beyond the 5-6 member family average. Another unique trait of Northwestern families was the integral role the servants played in everyday life. The servants were treated as part of the family, and would often eat with the family, as well as travel anywhere the family went. All of these characteristics of Northwestern European families contributed to their early success.

Differing greatly from the Northwestern European families, the Eastern European families had great success as well. One of the major differences between the two regions is that in Eastern European families, young teens did not leave the households to work. Teens often stayed in their existing household working for their families, as well as generating income for the household in which they lived. Because of this, the age in which the family members married was much younger than in Northwestern Europe. The average age of marriage in Eastern Europe was around 20 years of age. After being married, the married couple would move back into the household in which the man was living before, and would remain there the rest of their lives. Due to the couples moving back into the same



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