For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"“There Is Many a Thing That Can Be Done with Money”: Women, Barter, and Autonomy in a Scottish Fishing Community in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"

by Abrams, Lynn (2012)


Representations of Shetland womanhood have a place in our understanding of gender relations in this island community but not the place one might expect. Far from conforming to the image of the brazen fishwife and the exploited preindustrial handknitter, women in these occupations exhibited a degree of independence perhaps unexpected in a society so dominated by the farming-fishing economy. Yet the particular demographic characteristics of Shetland—a society in which women far outnumbered men—created a situation whereby women marked out a role for themselves that traversed both private and public domains. The sheer fact of male absence (due to seasonal fishing trips and more lengthy whaling and merchant shipping voyages) created a society with very particular labor characteristics, which gave women a degree of economic and, more significantly, cultural power. This power rested on women’s skills and endurance as domestic producers, their active role in the market as traders and marketers of goods, and their place in the community as possessors of certain kinds of knowledge or cultural capital.

Key Passage



Scotland, United Kingdom, Womens Work, Autonomy, Female Labour, Nineteenth Century, History, Historical Context


History of Women and Work, Women and Work

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