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A Dictionary of Employments Open to Women, published by The Women's Institute (1898)

Extract: 'A Dictionary of Employments Open to Women'

A Dictionary of Employments Open to Women is an alphabetical description of over one hundred occupations. It provides all the information that a woman would require to choose a vocation at the close of the nineteenth century, including detailed facts about wages, conditions of work and training opportunities. The authors' objective was to expand women's horizons and increase the variety of occupations that they entered.

'The painful overcrowding in some of the better-known occupations for women is in great measure due to ignorance of alternative careers. This book seeks to indicate every means of honourable livelihood at present open to them, and to give a bare outline of the qualifications required and of the remuneration which may be expected'.

Working-class women had always made up a significant part of the workforce in the nineteenth century as domestic servants, mill workers, and as wives of farmers and shop owners. Towards the end of the century, middle-class, particularly single, women started to take up employment as clerks and shop assistants, while others agitated for entry into the professions. The Dictionary covers a wide spectrum of occupations, from doctor, nurse, accountant, fashion designer and ballet dancer to paper bag maker, charwoman and barmaid, and is purposely not limited only to describing traditional female occupations.

The Dictionary provides a wealth of statistical information for the historian in the form of rates of pay, hours of work and the conditions under which women worked. It also provides evidence of significantly changing attitudes to female employment.

The Nineteenth Century Collection contains many interesting works on female employment during the last century, including the following selection:

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