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Article contents

‘Stolen Goods’: The Sexual Harassment of Female Servants in West Wales during the Nineteenth Century

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 October 2008

Jill Barber
Affiliation:
Department of Information and Library Studies, The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK.

Extract

‘How came I to be his property? What right has he in me, but such as a thief may plead to stolen goods?’ cried Pamela, the virtuous servant maid of Richardson's novel. Pamela was written in 1740, but the assumption that masters had sexual rights over their servants cast a long shadow. The questions Pamela raises about powerlessness and ‘worth’ are crucial to understanding the plight of female servants in the nineteenth century. This study examines why servants were particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, the consequences of sexual abuse for victims and offenders, and underlying male attitudes which affected both the incidence of assaults and the justice meted out by the courts.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1993

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References

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2. See Clark, Anna, Women's Silence, Men's Violence: Sexual Assault in England 1770–1845 (London, 1987)Google Scholar; Jones, D.J.V., ‘Rebecca, crime and policing: A turning-point in nineteenth-century attitudes’, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1990), p. 107.Google Scholar

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4. I would like to thank the Leverhulme Trust for funding research on the Llidiardau collection at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

5. In Cardiganshire 76% of working women were employed as servants compared to 66% in Glamorganshire, where industry provided an alternative. Census of Great Britain 1841: Abstract of the Answers and Returns, Occupation Abstract Part I (London, 1844).

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