Table of Contents

The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

The International Handbook of Gender and Poverty

Concepts, Research, Policy

Elgar original reference

Edited by Sylvia Chant

In the interests of contextualising (and nuancing) the multiple interrelations between gender and poverty, Sylvia Chant has gathered writings on diverse aspects of the subject from a range of disciplinary and professional perspectives, achieving extensive thematic as well as geographical coverage. This benchmark volume presents women’s and men’s experiences of gendered poverty with respect to a vast spectrum of intersecting issues including local to global economic transformations, family, age, ‘race’, migration, assets, paid and unpaid work, health, sexuality, human rights, and conflict and violence.

Chapter 85: The Housewife and the Marketplace: Practices of Credit and Savings from the Early Modern to Modern Era

Beverly Lemire

Subjects: development studies, development studies, family and gender policy, geography, human geography, research methods in geography, law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, social policy and sociology, family and gender policy


Beverly Lemire The term ‘thrifty housewife’ conjures up images of an aproned woman making bread pudding from stale bread, or mending the heel of a worn sock – and that is certainly an element of women’s traditional resource management. But there is much more. In the long transition to an industrial society, women mediated between household and market, developing key strategies in the administration of credit and savings. Until recent years, these gendered talents escaped the notice of economists and economic historians who rather focused on the large prominent businesses whose activities were deemed to signal the zeitgeist of an age. The term ‘economy’ originates with the Greek word for ‘household management’ and we can better understand women’s roles within the evolving economy by recognising women’s liminal functions through their management of credit and savings. The emphasis here is on Western regions during the rise of commercial and industrial capitalism (c. 1600–1900), although timely examples of similar practices will be offered from other societies and contexts. Generations of women managed in a ‘material economy’, where monetisation was partial and imperfect and their ordering of physical resources was of critical importance. The gradual spread of monetised economies and monetised thinking represented a fundamental transformation of process and practice that also reordered domestic priorities. But before this epochal shift, however, the commonest feature of life was scarcity. Thus the careful husbandry of resources, through recycling and reuse, was a necessary and commonplace exercise. Scarcity and the threat of scarcity defined Europe’s material...

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