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For Educators

"More Than Mere Amusement"
Working-Class Women's Leisure in England, 1750-1914
Catriona M. Parratt

Northeastern University Press
2001 • 294 pp. 11 illus. 6 x 9"
Women's Studies / Cultural Studies / Sports History

$24.95 Paperback, 978-1-55553-494-3

This groundbreaking study surveys how working-class women, restricted by gender, time, and financial means, as well as cultural and social tensions, managed to find spheres of leisure and recreation.

From the carefree pleasure-seeking London factory girl to the overworked housewife drudge, the lives of English working-class women in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were characterized by two constants: work and want. In this pathbreaking study of women's leisure and recreation from 1750 to 1914, Catriona M. Parratt explores how and to what degree women managed to carve out a sphere of pleasure for themselves within the broader context of the history of English working-class culture.

Drawing on in-depth research and a wide range of primary sources, including letters, diaries, oral accounts, and parliamentary papers, Parratt examines in vibrant detail the ways in which women used leisure to both embrace and resist gender and class hierarchies, inequities, and identities. She finds that despite the constraints of subsistence earnings, exploitative working conditions, the double burden of domestic and waged labor, sexual divisions of leisure in the family, and patriarchal ideologies about appropriate female behavior, working-class women were resolute in seeking opportunities and resources for their amusements. Whether choosing enjoyment at music hall concerts, buying hats and clothes at shopping emporiums, joining party clubs, treating one another to drinks at the pub, or playing cricket, women who worked all their lives did achieve an element of independence and moments of pleasure through an array of pastime activities.

"More Than Mere Amusement" fills a significant gap in the literature on English working-class life and provides a solid basis for further research in the emerging area of sport and cultural studies.

Catriona M. Parratt is Assistant Professor of Health, Leisure, and Sport Studies at the University of Iowa. She lives in Iowa City.

Wed, 20 Jun 2012 09:53:22 -0500