American Antiquarian 
Society logoAAS Online 
Exhibitions

A
Woman's Work is Never Done

Miscellaneous Occupations

The Postmistress

This engraving of "The Post-Mistress" comes from Godey's Lady's Book, February 1850. It accompanies a fictional story about a postmistress who was dismissed from her job for reading mail and then gossiping about it. Many women were employed as Postmistresses in nineteenth-century America. Only unmarried women were eligible, and they were appointed through the same process as a postmaster. It was considered a strenuous job for a woman because she had to be on her feet all day, but it was steady work and women were compensated well.

Flower Woman

 

These two illustrations are from an 1846 children's book called City Sights, for Little Folks.

Fruit Girls

Many women and girls made an honest living by growing or buying fruits or flowers and selling them on the streets. Fresh fruit and berries were popular in the summer; dry fruit and nuts in the winter, especially with children. Flowers were often sold near places of entertainment, such as theaters and opera houses.
The Washington Reporter Reporting was a fairly new occupational field for women in the mid nineteenth century. It was a hard job, and many believed that women would not be able to handle it. But those who did were well paid. This is a lithograph called "The Washington Reporter." Click on the image in the bottom right corner to view a close-up of women working in the composition room.

 

 

This image comes from a trade card called "View of one Section of Dickinson's Printing Office." It shows women running the printing presses, but the card states that the office employed skillful "workmen." The trade card is dated January 1842.

Printing Office
Sojourner
TruthSojourner Truth, born ca. 1797, worked as a slave in New York under several owners until about 1829, when she went into domestic service to support herself and her family. She became very involved in her church and eventually travelled to preach her beliefs. For many years she spoke at gatherings in support of women's suffrage and abolition, gaining quite a large following and a reputation for being a very influential speaker. This image is a carte de visite ca. 1864. The text reads: "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance. SOJOURNER TRUTH."
Harriet Beecher Stowe, born in Connecticut in 1811, lived most of her life in New England, except for a few years teaching at her sister's school in Cincinnati. Stowe began her career as a published author in 1843 with her collection of short stories called The Mayflower. She is best known for her anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin. This engraving of Mrs. Stowe is entitled "Writing for 'Our Young Folks' An Original Portrait of Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe At Home."
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Women
and their Work Artificial Flower Makers Paper Box Maker Shoe Fitting Umbrella Makers Photograph Mounters Hoop Skirt Makers Book Folders Toy Painters Seamstress Fur Sewers Milliners Typesetters Envelopemaker Preparing Candies Hat Trimmers Silver Burnishers Paper Collar Maker Composition Room This two-page spread from the April 18, 1868 issue of Harper's Bazar shows various women's occupations of the period. The accompanying article describes the progress women had made in the previous decades, listing many of the new employments available to women. Click to enlarge each individual image.

 

American Antiquarian 
Society logo

This site and all contents © 2004 American Antiquarian Society

Valid HTML 4.01!