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Women in the rural society of south-west Wales, c.1780-1870. /

Swansea University Author: Thomas, Wilma R

Abstract

This thesis has sought to fill a gap in Welsh social history in its focusing on women's role and status in rural society. It is claimed, moreover, that the period covered allows us to capture the position of women within the traditional rural economy before the huge changes setting in during th...

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Published: 2003
Institution: Swansea University
Degree level: Doctoral
Degree name: Ph.D
URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa42585
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Abstract: This thesis has sought to fill a gap in Welsh social history in its focusing on women's role and status in rural society. It is claimed, moreover, that the period covered allows us to capture the position of women within the traditional rural economy before the huge changes setting in during the final decades of the nineteenth century, not least the movement of women out of agriculture, and, of many, out of the countryside altogether, worked for the young in particular a profound change in their circumstances. The approach is an overarching one which deliberately seeks to explain the subject from as wide a perspective as possible. As such, it may be open to criticism that insufficient focus is given to certain areas as women's migration, spinsterhood, old age and to those few privileged females occupying the middling and upper ranks in society. The defence I make in adopting this comprehensive treatment is that it the more easily allows us to perceive the total world inhabited by women and to appreciate their predicament within the larger society. The thesis falls naturally into two sections, namely, first, women's participation in the rural workforce and their material circumstances, and, second, their public responsibilities and recreational pursuits and their private lives. The three chapters in section one cover female employment, women and the domestic economy, and coping with poverty. It will be demonstrated how precarious life was for small farmers' and cottagers' families and the vital role which women played in their continuing survival; of significance here was the fact that young girls were expected to enter farm service and domestic service in order to support themselves. Section two will examine their life outside the sphere of work. This will, firstly, explore their recreation and leisure activities and seek to understand their system of values and beliefs. The discussion will then turn to examining women's public role within the community, and here particular attention will be drawn to their importance as providers of nurture and care and as upholders of the community's morality and enforcers of what they perceived as natural justice. In the second place, the discussion will focus on women's private and domestic lives. The main themes here will cover marriage and sexuality, which exploration will range over aspects like illegitimacy, wife-beating, adultery and infanticide. The overwhelming disadvantaged position of women within matters pertaining to sexuality and private relations will be emphasised.
Keywords: European history.;Women's studies.;Sociology.
College: College of Arts and Humanities