Gender and the Rise of the White British Middle Class

The rise of the White British middle class had its origins in the servitude of “wayward girls.” A new BBC series based on the book by Pamela Cox (in turn based on her PhD) examines domestic service in Britain between the 1840s and 1940s. In the 19th Century, “respectable” jobs were scarce for White working class women who wanted to escape farm work and so they opted for domestic service, which consisted of up to 17 hours work daily. Cox says:

“Service was vital to the social reproduction of labour and class power… Middle class enterprise was one of the main engines of economic growth. Middle class household structure and reputation was inseparable from that enterprise – and servants were, in turn, vital to the maintenance of those household structures and reputations.”