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Career Opportunities for the Victorian Woman

Once past the issue of whether women should work (see Should Women Work?), the question became "what jobs are suitable for women?" Or, more specifically, what jobs could be done by women who were of "good breeding" and who still hoped to retain their social standing, even if they had to earn a living? Many of the articles below explain why this type of work is "acceptable" for a young lady; many others have detailed information on skills required, salary ranges, and how to obtain training. Articles are arranged chronologically within each topic.


Some general articles about "suitable professions" for women.

On Earning One's Living, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1880)
An interesting overview of the types of work currently considered suitable for young women. The list includes clerking, book-keeping and agriculture, but is still heavy on such choices as china-painting, dressmaking, millinery, and other artistic/craft pursuits.
What Girls May Do, by Alice King (GOP 1880)
Literary pursuits and handwork are still strongly advised!
Work for All (GOP 1884)
Detailed article covering many types of employment available for women, along with the qualifications required, where and how to get training, salary expectations, and more.
New Employments for Girls, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1892)
Though this article focuses primarily on occupations that can provide a supplemental income (rather than one's full support), it covers a wide range of opportunities, with tips on where to obtain training or other assistance in getting started.
Some Healthful Employments for Girls, by Gordon Stables (Medicus) (GOP 1900)
These seem to be more in the line of "healthy hobbies" that might earn a bit of pocket money than actual careers.
The Failures of the Business Girl, by Flora Klickman (GOP 1901)
A four-part article covering writing and literary pursuits; music and art; clerks and typewriting; and dressmaking -- and the mistakes that will lead to failure in all of these trades. (Worthy of note: Klickman went on to become the editor of GOP for many years.)
Girls' Ambitions, by Lily Watson (GOP 1902)


Female Clerks and Book-keepers (GOP 1880)
By 1871 a census found 572 female clerks and book-keepers in London alone -- and "no one can raise any objection on the score of its being unfeminine."
Female Clerkships in the Post Office (GOP 1883)
Interesting overview on the evolution of jobs for women in the Post Office, along with current requirements, training, and salaries.
Clerkships, by Alice King (GOP 1884)
On qualifications for clerkships - plus tips on how to remain a good, pure Christian woman even if one must work!
An Extinct Industry, by One Who Survived It (GOP 1895)
A look back at the "old" days of clerking, when all was written by hand, in the light of the new age of the typewriter.
Something About Type-Writing and Typists (GOP 1895)
A glimpse of the world of typing and stenography.
How a Girl Can Train for a Sanitary Inspectorship, by Josepha Crane (GOP 1896)
This article is particularly intriguing for the syllabus of courses and topics covered under the umbrella of "sanitary inspection." (Health and Safety is not a totally modern innovation!)
Women Clerkships in the Civil Service (GOP 1901)
Shorthand and Typewriting Clerks (GOP 1902)


Gentlewomen as Dressmakers, by Elizabeth Lisle (GOP 1881)
"Let us consider for a moment the average middle-class dressmaker -- the person who asks from 15s to 2 for making an ordinary gown..."
The Emancipation of Seamstresses, by Anne Beale (GOP 1891)
Millinery as a Career in Life (GOP 1892)


Home Trades: Book-Binding, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1881)
Home Trades: Frame-Making, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1881)
The Spinning Wheel in Use Again (GOP 1885)
[Spinning] A Restored Industry (GOP 1894)
Bread-Winning at Home, by Margaret Bateson (GOP 1900)
Opportunities include making balls, boxing gloves, dolls, and a variety of other industries. The third article looks at a variety of home-based industries in South London, including box-making, basket-weaving, brush-making, and "fur-pulling" (pulling fur from rabbit skins). The fourth looks at East London clothing trades, and the fifth examines embroidery, knitting and crochet.
Hair-Work as a Highly Remunerative Employment for Girls (GOP 1900)
The making of switches, coils, frizettes, wigs, etc. - as a home-based business for women. This is basically a how-to article on how to make wigs and switches!


Nursing as a Profession, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1880)
A detailed article providing information on qualifications, salaries, and living conditions.
Hospital Work and Hospital Workers (GOP 1884)
A detailed look at the work of a hospital nurse, and life in the wards.
Lady Dispensers, by Gordon Stables (Medicus) (GOP 1885)
How to become a pharmacist.
Nurses and Patients, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1886)
A fascinating look at the hazards of the profession of nursing. At the time this article was written, nurses had a mortality rate of 40% compared to 16% amongst women in London in general (presumably based on age), half of those deaths being caused by infectious diseases.
The Unvarnished Side of Hospital Nursing (GOP 1888)
A New Occupation for Girls (Nursing), by Rosa Nouchette Carey (GOP 1893)
How to Become a Hospital Nurse (GOP 1895)
The Life of a Nurse (GOP 1900)
Pharmacy as an Employment for Girls, by R. Kathleen Spencer (GOP 1900)
Women's Work in Sanitation and Hygiene, by Florence Sophie Davson (GOP 1900)


Higher Thoughts on Girls' Occupations: Teaching the Young, by Alice King (GOP 1883)
The Duties of a Governess, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1884)
The Governess Difficulty, by S.F.A. Caulfield (GOP 1891)
Suggestions for those who seek employment in the over-crowded field of governess work, with tips on applying for work in the colonies.
A New Career for Women, by A.T. Schofield (GOP 1891)
On careers for women as lecturers and teachers in the newly formed National Health Society.
The Rise of a New Profession for Girls (GOP 1894)
On training to become a teacher of physical education.


Literary Work for Girls, by An Editor's Wife (GOP 1881)
"Happily this nineteenth century, which has so many evil things to answer for, has at any rate done us good service in materially altering the aspect from which women's labour is regarded." Beyond that, this article could just as easily have been written to advise the would-be authors of today!
How to Write a Story, by An Editor's Wife (GOP 1881)
More good advice from an editor's wife!
Women as Reporters, by an American Newspaper Reporter (GOP 1886)
This is primarily about women reporters in America, and also seemingly primarily about the art of taking shorthand.
The Struggles of a Lady Journalist (GOP 1888)
Young Women as Journalists (GOP 1891)
The Literary Life from a Woman's Standpoint, by Isabella Fyvie Mayo (GOP 1900)
"Whatever fame and profit it may bring is uncertain and external..." Well, some things never change!
How to Write Fiction, by Lily Watson (GOP 1901)
Girls' Ambitions, by Lily Watson (GOP 1902)


How to Rear Fowls (GOP 1881)
Tips on raising poultry for hob by, home use or profit.
Pheasants (GOP 1889)
Tips on rearing pheasants.
Poultry Keeping: A Recreation and Source of Income for Girls, by Theo (GOP 1889)
Eggs and Chickens in Midwinter, by Theo (GOP 1890)
Pheasants and Their Maladies, by La Baronne H. de Boerio (GOP 1890)
Artificial Hatching, by A. Lockart (GOP 1891)
Cheese and Butter Schools for Girls, by Fanny Green (GOP 1891)
A New Industry for Gentlewomen (GOP 1891)
"Miss Grace Harriman's scheme of market gardening as an employment for gentlewomen."
Gardening for Profit (GOP 1897)
Subtitled "Aunt Amy's Letters to Her Niece in the Country"
Profitable Duck-Keeping, by T. Wilson-Wilson (GOP 1897)
On the Employment of Girls in Dairy Work and Outdoor Industries, by Lady Georgina Vernon (GOP 1898)
The Pleasures of Beekeeping, by F.W.L. Sladen (GOP 1899)


On Emigrating as Domestic Servants to New Zealand (GOP 1885)
How to Secure a Situation, by Nora C. Usher (GOP 1892)
Lady Laundresses, by Josepha Crane (GOP 1892)
How to Keep a Situation, by Nora C. Usher (GOP 1893)
Lady Cooks and Their Training (GOP 1900)
Domestic Service as a Profession for Gentlewomen, by Alix Joson (GOP 1902)
"There is nothing lowering in domestic work unless we make it so."
My Laundry, by a Laundress (GOP 1902)
How a professional laundry business is managed.

See also the section on Servants.


Wood Engraving as an Employment for Girls, by Richard Taylor (GOP 1886)
A detailed overview of how to design and create engravings for printing, and how to turn this skill into lucrative employment.
Girls as Pianoforte Tuners (GOP 1887)
Although this claims to be a two-part article, the second part apparently never appeared.
The Silk Industry in Ireland and America, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1889)
An overview of the growth of the industry, followed by tips on how this can become a profitable area of work for women.

Copyright © 2017 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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