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Coping with economic uncertainty: women's work and the protoindustrial family in eighteenth-century Lyon

  • Anne Montenach (a1)

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse how female working conditions and remunerations were affected by the structural and economic crises that impacted Lyon's silk industry in the second half of the eighteenth century. It concentrates, at a micro level, on different circumstances in which sources allow us to see women and their families coping with economic uncertainty: small-scale wage conflicts with their employers, clandestine work and illicit activities. This essay studies how women's work was a real issue in power conflicts and a tool for household adaptive strategies during periods of crisis.

French Abstract

Répondre à l’incertitude économique: travail des femmes et famille proto-industrielle à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle

Cet article a pour objectif d’analyser comment les conditions de travail des femmes et leurs rémunérations furent affectées par les crises structurelles et conjoncturelles qui ont touché l’industrie de la soie lyonnaise dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle. L’auteur se concentre, au niveau micro, sur diverses circonstances, bien documentées dans les sources, où des femmes et leurs familles sont confrontées à l’incertitude économique: petits conflits salariaux avec leurs employeurs, travail clandestin et autres activités illicites. Cet essai met en lumière que le travail des femmes jouait un rôle majeur dans les conflits de pouvoir et constituait un outil, en période de crise, pour mettre en oeuvre des stratégies d’adaptation au sein des ménages.

German Abstract

Bewältigung ökonomischer Unsicherheit. Frauenarbeit und die protoindustrielle Familie in Lyon im 18. Jahrhundert

Dieser Beitrag setzt sich zum Ziel herauszuarbeiten, welchen Einfluss die strukturellen und ökonomischen Krisen, denen die Seidenindustrie in Lyon in der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts ausgesetzt war, auf die Arbeitsbedingungen und Verdienste von Frauen hatten. Auf einer Mikroebene geht es um unterschiedliche Bedingungen, unter denen uns die Quellen einen Blick darauf erlauben, wie Frauen und ihre Familien mit ökonomischer Unsicherheit umgingen: kleinformatige Lohnkonflikte mit ihren Arbeitgebern, Untergrundarbeit und illegale Aktivitäten. Dieser Beitrag analysiert Frauenarbeit als zentralen Aspekt von Machtkonflikten und als Werkzeug für die Anpassungsstrategien von Haushalten in Krisenzeiten.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: anne.montenach@univ-amu.fr

References

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Endnotes

1 Garden, Maurice, Lyon et les Lyonnais au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1970); Godart, Justin, L'ouvrier en soie: monographie du tisseur lyonnais (Lyon, 1899).

2 Bellavitis, Anna, Women's work and rights in early modern urban Europe (London, 2018), ch. 14.

3 Hafter, Daryl M., Women at work in preindustrial France (University Park, PA, 2007), 123–43.

4 For a recent overview, see Bellavitis, Women's work, chs. 13 and 16.

5 André Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon des origines à nos jours (Lyon, 2007), 480–1.

6 Pierre Cayez, Métiers Jacquard et hauts fourneaux. Aux origines de l'industrie lyonnaise (Lyon, 1978), 52–3.

7 Suppressed by Turgot in 1776, the guilds were recreated in Lyon by the Decree of January 1777. The organisation of the Grande Fabrique remained more or less unchanged until the French Revolution.

8 Maurice Garden, ‘Ouvriers et artisans au XVIIIe siècle. L'exemple lyonnais et les problèmes de classification’, in René Favier and Laurence Fontaine eds., Maurice Garden, un historien dans la ville (Paris, 2008), 87–112, here 88–91; Carlo Poni, ‘Fashion as flexible production: the strategies of the Lyon silk merchants in the eighteenth century’, in Charles F. Sabel and Jonathan Zeitlin eds., World of possibilities. Flexibility and mass production in Western industrialization (Cambridge, 1997), 37–74, here 47–8.

9 Daryl M. Hafter, ‘Women who wove in the eighteenth-century silk industry of Lyon’, in Daryl M. Hafter ed., European women and preindustrial craft (Bloomington, 1995), 42–64, here 42; Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 389.

10 Garden, ‘Ouvriers et artisans’, 89–91.

11 Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon, 482–4.

12 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 180–1.

13 Jean-François Budin, ‘Les ouvrières de la soie à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle’, in Maurice Hamon ed., Le travail avant la révolution industrielle (Paris, 2002), 117–26, here 117–8.

14 Archives municipales de Lyon (hereafter AML), HH 540, September 1752.

15 Olwen Hufton, ‘Women and the family economy in eighteenth-century France’, French Historical Studies 9, 1 (1975), 1–22, here 13–14; Garden, Lyon et les Lyonnais, 116–40.

16 Hafter, Women at work, 133; Hafter, ‘Women’, 51; Marcello Della Valentina, ‘Il setificio salvato dalle donne: le tessitrici veneziane nel Settecento’, in Anna Bellavitis, Nadia Maria Filippini and Tiziana Plebani eds., Spazi, potteri, diritti delle donne a Venezia in età moderna (Verona, 2012), 321–35.

17 Budin, ‘Les ouvrières’; Garden, Lyon et les Lyonnais; Godart, L'ouvrier en soie; Hafter, ‘Women’; Daryl M. Hafter, ‘Il lavoro delle donne nella Francia preindustriale: un dibattito storiografico’, Genesis 7, 1–2 (2008), 139–63, here 158–62; Daryl M. Hafter, ‘The programmed brocade loom and the “decline of the drawgirl”’, in Martha Moore Trescott ed., Dynamos and virgins revisited: women and technological change in history (London, 1979), 49–66.

18 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 173.

19 Monica Martinat, ‘Travail et apprentissages des femmes à Lyon au XVIIIe siècle’, Mélanges de l’École Française de Rome – Italie et Méditerranée modernes et contemporaines 123, 1 (2011), 11–24, here 17.

20 See, for instance, Archives départementales du Rhône (hereafter ADR), 8 B 750/2, 1773–1774; 8 B 763/1, 1751–1753.

21 Garden, ‘Ouvriers et artisans’, 89.

22 Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon, 618–9.

23 Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon, 505–7, 615; Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 206–25, 228–45.

24 AML, HH 538, ‘Mémoire concernant la manufacture des étoffes d'or, d'argent et de soye de la ville de Lyon’, 1751.

25 AML, HH 541, 1 April 1755; Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 233.

26 Cayez, Métiers Jacquard, 43–4.

27 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 199–202, 333; HH 528, ‘Statuts et règlement’, 1744.

28 AML, HH 500–560; HH 214–267, 1667–1781.

29 Michael Sonenscher, Work and wages. Natural law, politics and the eighteenth-century French trades (Cambridge, 1989), 66–7.

30 Julie Hardwick, ‘Parasols and poverty. Conjugal marriage, global economy, and rethinking the consumer revolution’, in Simon Middleton and James Shaw eds., Market ethics and practices, c. 1300–1850 (London, 2017), 129–49; Jean-Pierre Gutton, La société et les pauvres. L'exemple de la généralité de Lyon, 1534–1789, 2nd edn (Paris, 2018).

31 Françoise Bayard, ‘Les conflits du travail portés en justice, Lyon, XVIIe–XVIIIe siècle’, in Le travail avant la révolution industrielle (Nancy, 2006), 71–80.

32 Garden, Lyon et les Lyonnais, 572.

33 Garden, ‘Ouvriers et artisans’, 100–101.

34 On women's ability to use the legal process in its many forms, see Julie Hardwick's extensive work, especially Family business: litigation and the political economies of daily life in seventeenth-century France (Oxford, 2009), and ‘Women “working” the law: gender, authority and legal process in early modern France’, Journal of Women's History 9, 3 (1997), 28–49.

35 AML, HH 538, 16 July 1751.

36 AML, BB 337, BB 338 and BB 339.

37 Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon, 610.

38 AML, HH 260, 28 March, 13 July, 7 August 1770.

39 AML, HH 260, 13 July 1770. See also 8 August 1770.

40 See, for instance, AML, HH 260, 20 February and 6 March 1770.

41 AML, HH 252, 12 February 1760.

42 AML, HH 242, 28 April 1750.

43 Jean-Yves Grenier, L'économie d'Ancien Régime. Un monde de l’échange et de l'incertitude (Paris, 1996), 9–15.

44 Garden, Lyon et les Lyonnais, 584; AML, HH 260, 14 February 1770.

45 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 185, 476, 480; AML, HH 260, 13 February and 4 December 1770.

46 AML, 6 Fi 00265, 25 October 1701; 6 F 00307, 4 November 1739; 6 Fi 00310, 19 July 1743; 6 Fi 00316, 2 October 1744.

47 AML, HH 541, 13 March 1755; HH 543, 10 and 23 May 1757; HH 544, 2 March 1759; HH 545, 25 April 1760; HH 547, 7 September 1761; HH 548, 4 September 1761.

48 AML, HH 260, 13 July, 7 August and 4 December 1770.

49 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 358; Garden, Lyon et les Lyonnais, 578; Hafter, ‘The programmed brocade loom’; Hafter, ‘Women who wove’, 54–8; Hafter, Women at work, 196–9.

50 Initiatives taken by city authorities on behalf of poor women employed in the silk sector are described for Venice in the sixteenth century and Barcelona in the seventeenth century, see Bellavitis, Women's work, 201–5.

51 AML, HH 260, 16 January 1770. See also HH 169, 1 December 1761, 30 November 1769.

52 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 471.

53 The following analysis was made by Liliane Hilaire-Pérez, ‘Le vol de déchets dans l'industrie en France et en Angleterre au XVIIIe siècle. Jalons pour une histoire comparée de l'embezzlement’, in Benoît Garnot ed., La petite délinquance du Moyen Âge à l’époque contemporaine (Dijon, 1998), 281–308.

54 Sonenscher, Work and wages, 208–9 and 259–63.

55 Grenier, L’économie d'Ancien Régime, 255; Humphries, Jane and Schneider, Benjamin, ‘Spinning the industrial revolution’, Economic History Review 72, 1 (2019), 126–55, here 144; Deborah Valenze, The first industrial woman (Oxford, 1995), 72–3.

56 Styles, John, ‘Embezzlement, industry, and the law in England, 1500–1800’, in Berg, Maxine, Hudson, Pat and Sonenscher, Michael eds., Manufacture in town and country before the factory (Cambridge, 1983), 173210; Randall, Adrian J., ‘Peculiar perquisites and pernicious practices. Embezzlement in the West of England woollen industry, c. 1750–1840’, International Review of Social History 35, 2 (1990), 193219.

57 Hilaire-Pérez, ‘Le vol de déchets’, 297–301.

58 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 184–5.

59 AML, HH 148, 19 June 1744.

60 AML, HH 147, 25 October 1711, 3 July 1725; HH 148, 18 December 1727, 19 June 1744.

61 Poni, ‘Fashion’, 48–9.

62 AML, HH 147, 25 October 1711.

63 HH 147, 12 July 1645; Pelletier ed., Histoire de Lyon, 610.

64 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 472.

65 AML, HH 149, 11 May 1748.

66 AML, HH 152, March 1763–February 1764, July 1765, 20 June and 18 July 1769.

67 AML, HH 234 (1740), HH 242 (1750), HH 252 and 253 (1760), HH 260 (1770), HH 267 (1780).

68 AML, HH 149–155, HH 506–558.

69 AML, HH 502–558.

70 Hilaire-Pérez, ‘Le vol de déchets’, 306; Styles, ‘Embezzlement’, 178; Randall, ‘Peculiar perquisites’, 202–3.

71 AML, HH 546, 22 January–4 May 1760.

72 Hafter, Daryl, ‘Women in the underground business of eighteenth-century Lyon’, Enterprise & Society 2, 1 (2001), 1140.

73 Pawning material was also important for Parisian medieval silk workers. See Farmer, Sharon, The silk industries of medieval Paris: artisanal migration, technological innovation, and gendered experience (Philadelphia, 2017).

74 Hafter, Women at work, 141.

75 Hafter, ‘Women’, 13–4, 18, 34.

76 Hufton, Olwen H., The poor of eighteenth-century France 1750–1789 (Oxford, 1974), ch. X.

77 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 235. AML, HH 552, ‘Recapitulation des marchands, des maitres et des metiers qu'ils occupoient, tirée des differentes visites faites depuis l'année 1667 a l'année 1765 comprize’ (1766).

78 Godart, L'ouvrier en soie, 236. AML, HH 552, May 1766.

79 Hafter, ‘Women’, 20.

80 AML, HH 541, 27 March 1755.

81 AML, HH 541, 12–13 May 1755.

82 AML, HH 150, 29 February 1760.

83 AML, HH 151, July–October 1763.

84 See, for instance, AML, HH 543, 3 and 9 March 1757.

85 HH 545, 4 May, 28 and 30 November, 1 December 1759.

86 AML, HH 544, 13 January and 2 March 1759; HH 545, 4 May 1759.

87 AML, HH 544, 8 March 1758, 16 and 22 February 1759; HH 545, 22 November 1759, 20 May 1760; HH 547, 4 September 1761.

88 See, for instance, AML, HH 549, 29 August 1763; HH 552, October and November 1766.

89 AML, HH 552, ‘Etat des contraventions faites pendant les six derniers mois de 1766’.

90 See, for instance, AML, HH 544, 6 March 1759; HH 545, 28 April and 30 November 1759; HH 549, 14 and 18 December 1762. Whereas Styles has estimated that embezzlement could offer a valuable supplement to wages (up to 20 per cent for spinners in the Gloucestershire wool industry in the 1770s), Randall has been more cautious: Styles, ‘Embezzlement’, 181 and 207; Randall, ‘Peculiar perquisites’, 204–5.

91 AML, HH 558, 6 February and 19 December 1783, 10 December 1784, 15 March, 28 April, 6 May and 23 July 1785.

92 Bellavitis, Women's work, ch. 13.

93 Hafter, Women at work, 259–81.

Coping with economic uncertainty: women's work and the protoindustrial family in eighteenth-century Lyon

  • Anne Montenach (a1)

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