Cover

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Title Page, Copyright age, Dedication

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Table of Contents

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p. viii

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Acknowledgments

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p. ix

I began this project as a graduate student at the University of Iowa more than a decade ago. A travel grant from the Stanley Foundation of the University of Iowa, the Prange Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the University of Iowa Department of History, and the Seashore Dissertation Fellowship of the Graduate College of the University of Iowa supported me in gathering my materials and in writing. The invaluable counsel and friendship of Jeff Cox is with...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-12

JANE Sparks, a forty-two-year-old dressmaker, was admitted to London’s University College Hospital in September 1838. On her admission, the hospital clerk recorded that she “has never had good health since she was 10 years old. . . . [She] has continued close at work as a dressmaker all her life working always 14 hours a day and often more; she soon became pale and thin, was very weak and suffered much from pain in the back and headache:...

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Part 1. Contested Body Politics: Women, Health, and Social Reform in the 1830s and 1840s

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pp. 13-16

HISTORIANS often describe the 1830s and 1840s in England as decades of reform or “the age of improvement,” emphasizing increasing government intervention in the areas of employment, health, and welfare in response to the conditions of an industrializing society. Few, however, have examined the manner in which this governmental growth expressed..

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1. The Reproductive Body, Part I: Women's Work and the Biology of Reproduction

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pp. 17-35

IN his report to the 1842 Royal Commission investigating the conditions of child labor in mines, Commissioner Jelinger Symons recounted with reference to the West Riding of Yorkshire that one of the most disgusting sights I have ever seen was that of young females, dressed like boys in trowsers [sic], crawling on all fours, with belts round their waists, and chains passing between their legs, at day pits at Hunshelf Bank, and in many small..

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2. The Reproductive Body, Part II: The Tasks of Social Representation

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pp. 36-56

THE reproductive body was by its very nature made biologically to reproduce. But reformers understood the concept of reproduction in a social as well as a biological sense. Social reproduction, as the term has been used in feminist scholarship, refers to “activities and attitudes, behaviors and emotions, responsibilities and relationships, directly involved in the maintenance of life on a daily basis, and intergenerationally.” 1 This usage recognizes..

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3. Gender, the Poor Law, and the Ambiguity of the Able-Bodied Worker

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pp. 57-72

AT the same time Parliament was investigating the suitability of women’s bodies to various occupations, it was also limiting welfare assistance to able-bodied laborers. In the context of industrial and sanitary reform, women were being urged to curtail their employment, but the reform of the Poor Law insisted that all people able to work for wages should do so. The parliamentary investigations produced ideological boundaries concerning...

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Part 2. Living in the Body: Women's Experiences of Health and Illness

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pp. 73-76

THE politics of women’s health and work was embedded in debates about employment, public health, and welfare. Early Victorian ideas about reproductive and able bodies confronted working women with conflicting expectations regarding their employment and health. Ideological lines were clear-cut for able-bodied men: they were either independent, respectable...

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4. The Evidence of the Body: Poor Women and Medical Cultures

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pp. 77-95

HI S TORICAL explanations of nineteenth-century medicine’s approach to female health have stressed an increasing medicalization of women’s bodies founded upon the reduction of overall health to reproductive health. According to Sally Shuttleworth, “the physiological, mental and emotional economies of womanhood were all regarded as interdependent,” and stability relied upon the regular functioning of the reproductive...

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5. Testing the Reproductive Hypothesis: Women's Illnesses, the Environment, and Menstruation

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pp. 96-117

IN 1995, Lesley Doyal, a professor of health care policy, used the question “what makes women sick?” to investigate the politics of women’s health in the late twentieth century from a global perspective. In her analysis, she stresses the significance of economic, social, and cultural influences on physical and mental well-being, and explores the different facets of women’s experiences that have an impact on their health. “Instead of exploring the interior..

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6. Health and the Material Conditions of Home: Sanitation, Poverty, and Domesticity

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pp. 118-130

ONE of the main conclusions emerging from the early Victorian parliamentary inquiries into employment and sanitation was that families, communities, and the nation would be better off if women stayed at home tending to social reproduction. Recall William Raynor Wood’s dire pronouncement that “a fearful deterioration of the moral and physical condition of our working population is rapidly taking place” as a result of women’s...

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7. "Rather a Hard Life": Domestic Relationships and Health at Home

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pp. 131-149

TH E material circumstances of their homes shaped just one of the ways early Victorian “women’s lives [made] them sick.”1 The unhealthiness of home could be just as much a consequence of emotional as of physical factors. In any event, the ideal relationships within families that parliamentary reformers imagined would emerge if women stayed at home were quite unrealistic. Through the causes to which the patients attributed their illnesses,...

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8. "She Continued at Her Work": Negotiating Employment and Health

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pp. 150-175

THE patients in this study named many environmental, economic, and social factors connected to home that they believed to be central causes of their ill health. Home was not an ideal domestic space for poor women.What passed for homes were dwellings situated in areas with no sanitary regulations and environments fraught with psychological and physical dangers. Although the parliamentary investigators set up home as the healthful...

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Conclusion: The Politics of Women's Health and Work

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pp. 176-184

THE relationships between poor women’s work and health became central to public debate about the state of society in early Victorian Britain. Although poor women themselves lived their lives, making decisions in the immediate context of their own and their families’ economic needs, they were caught in a nexus of competing concerns that went well beyond their everyday experiences. Public health, the economy, the welfare system, and...

Notes

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pp. 185-227

Select Bibliography

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pp. 228-246

Index

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pp. 247-256