What is an ‘occupation’?

One of the most common questions asked both in state, business and personal interactions is ‘what do you do?’ or ‘what is your job?’ and for the former ‘what is your occupation?’   This may seem like a simple question to answer – but in historical terms it becomes more problematic. The concept of ‘an… Read more »

New updates coming soon!

After taking some time off from this project I’ll be back to posting on a regular basis from today! Watch this space for lots more occupations, as well as updates on what I’m up to.


J is for Jam Maker

“Any adventurous jam-maker can be sure, by settling in London, of getting as many female workers as he likes for about 7s. a week – certainly not a subsistence wage in London; and having got them he may treat them pretty much as he likes. He may turn them off for weeks or months in… Read more »

I is for Ironer

In 1901 over 180,000 women were recorded in the census as working in laundries as washerwomen, ironers and manglers.  Every town and village had women working at laundries, small hand laundries existed by the thousands in large towns and the suburbs of London. Alongside these were homebased workers, and also the vast, steam driven laundries… Read more »

H is for Hawker

‘Napoleon called us “a nation of shopkeepers.” The remark would have been infinitely more degrading if he had called us a nation of hawkers, but certainly quite as true, for there is not one portion or spot of this island but is overrun with them.’[1] Throughout the nineteenth-century, hawkers, street-sellers and costermongers were a common… Read more »

G is for Gloveress

‘Gloving is only a cloak for something worse; to be a gloveress is enough to stamp them with no enviable fame.’[1] In 1852, the anonymous, ‘Humanitas’ wrote to Reynold’s Newspaper in an attempt to bring to the attention of the public the terrible state in which many gloveresses found themselves. To be a gloveress a… Read more »

F is for Fur Puller

Today, the wearing of fur is uncommon. However, in Victorian society it was commonplace among the middle and upper classes.  Everybody from small babies to the elderly wore fur. The coats of the military fighting in the Crimea were lined with rabbit fur leading to many more women entering the profession as seen in a… Read more »

E is for Embroideress

When deciding which predominantly female occupation to write about for the E in our alphabet I had to make a difficult decision between Envelope Folder and Embroideress. There are, of course, a surprisingly large number of other ‘E’s in the census – Errand girls were frequently recorded, Eating House Keepers, a couple of Electric Primer… Read more »

D is for Dressmaker

Wherever you look in the Victorian censuses, whether it be the urban metropolis of London, or the sleepiest villages in deepest Norfolk you will always find women recorded as either ‘dressmaker’, ‘tailoress’, ‘shirt maker/sewer’ or ‘needlewoman’. Mid-century, estimate placed the number of dressmakers in London alone as being in the region of 15-17,000 women. In… Read more »