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The 'perpetual fair'Gender, disorder and urban amusement in eighteenth-century London$
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Anne Wohlcke

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090912

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090912.001.0001

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Locating the fair sex at work1

Locating the fair sex at work1

(p.146) 5 Locating the fair sex at work1
The 'perpetual fair'

Anne Wohlcke

Manchester University Press

Chapter five considers whether or not gendered understandings of women’s behaviour at fairs developed by elite male writers and artists had any real impact on the lived experience of women who worked at fairs. Though representations of women at London’s fairs did contribute to negative stereotypes of working women, opportunities for women to profit at fairs remained into the middle of the eighteenth century. Their ability to partake in fair commerce is revealed in court documents (and in one case, in a little-used Pie Powder court record for Bartholomew Fair), lease documents, and even Parliamentary records. As this chapter reveals, though social critics believed women were a dangerous presence at fairs, this discourse had little effect on women’s abilities to find work at them. Eighteenth-century representations of the ‘fair sex’ at work tell us more about gender expectations and social order than they do about women’s actual experience at fair grounds.

Keywords:   Working women, Fairs, Pie Powder Court, Bartholomew Fair

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