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Women's Work

In late 19th century Austin, as was true elsewhere, most women, especially married women, were homemakers and did not typically hold paid jobs, much less participate in politics. Women’s role in history was largely anonymous. When women did work, they were typically employed in agriculture, domestic service or teaching. Some women worked as dressmakers, in restaurants or shops, or as boardinghouse keepers. African American women often worked as laundresses or domestic servants. Prostitution was another way for women, including white women and minorities, to earn money.

In the family portrait at right, the women of the family are relegated to the back of the scene while the men are in the foreground. This arrangement mirrors women’s role in society as they were typically only involved with behind-the-scenes domestic work while men were allowed to be more visible, holding employment and being involved in politics.


Charles A. Newning Home, Cedarlawn, circa 1890s, J044, Hubert Jones Glass Plate Collection.


Click on the thumbnail images below to view more photographs of the types of employment women typically held in the 19th century.