When the Light Goes Out: The Importance of Women’s Labor in the Household Economy

Author(s): Maria O'Donovan

Year: 2016


Archaeologists have contributed important insights into gender, particularly in relation to the impact of differences in class, race, and ethnicity.  Studies have challenged the relevance of 19th century gender ideals for those outside the middle class and have explored the ways middle class women’s lives defied these ideals.  The picture that has emerged is one that emphasizes the importance of women’s productive labor and the complexities of real lived experience.  The story of one household in Binghamton, New York provides an example of the complexities of gender as it is lived within social relations and experiences.  The Herrmanns family maintained a household economy based on tailor and dressmaking businesses and boarding.  For this household, it does not make sense to talk of male "breadwinners" or female "nurturing lights" but of labor, relations, and how changes in these related to the loss of female labor led to failure and transformation.

Cite this Record

When the Light Goes Out: The Importance of Women’s Labor in the Household Economy. Maria O'Donovan. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Washington, D.C. 2016 ( tDAR id: 434711)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Gender househol Labor

Geographic Keywords
North America United States of America

Temporal Keywords
19th Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 380