Gender Composition and Household Labour Strategies in Pre-Famine Ireland
Gray, Jane (2006) Gender Composition and Household Labour Strategies in Pre-Famine Ireland. History of the Family, 11 (1). pp. 1-18.
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This paper examines the relationship between gender composition and rural household strategies in Cavan, a county in north-central Ireland, during the first half of the 19th century. I show that the ratio of adult females to males was highest in small farm households that depended for their survival on intensively deployed family labour in agriculture, flax-cultivation and spinning. By contrast, households without land or with micro-holdings relied on the income from men's employment as agricultural labourers, supplemented by women's work as spinners. More substantial landholders employed men as agricultural labourers. In both of the latter categories household labour strategies centred on men's activities, with women's work representing an important supplement, whereas in the small-farm category household labour strategies centred on a strategic balance between men's and women's labour input. Amongst households engaged in linen weaving the ratio of women to men was lower across all landholding categories. Differences in gender composition resulted from a complex interplay amongst household labour and inheritance strategies in a changing socio-economic environment.
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