Summer Series – Were Milliners only Single Women?

Actually, the question is usually “Only single women could be milliners. Right?” or “Could milliners be married?”

Many of us were taught married women didn’t work outside of the home or couldn’t work outside of the home for much of the nineteenth century. This is a misconception.

Looking at advertisements, Miss. and Mrs. are used with women’s names. Of course, this could be for public relations purposes.

Looking at census records, milliners have statuses of married and widowed. In 1855 Livingston, New York 47 women’s occupations were recorded as milliner. Of the 47, 7 were married, 5 were widowed, 6 were head of household. 12 were living at home with a parent (listed as daughter to the head of household.) 13 women were living in homes other than their biological family, listed as milliner, assistant, boarder, servant, laborer, and maid.

In New York, prior to March of 1860 a married woman’s wages were legally her husband’s money. In March of that year, a bill went through the legislature and was signed into law giving married women the right to the wages they earned.

A married woman may bargain, sell, assign, and transfer her separate personal property, and carry on any trade or business, and perform any labor or services on her sole and separate
account, and the earnings of any married woman from her trade, business, labor, or services shall be her sole and separate property, and may be used of invested by her in her own name.

The 1860 Act also required a married women to get her husband’s written consent to sell real property but gave ways to do so when a husband was unable to do so. (In New York, married women also retained ownership of businesses owned prior to marriage after the Married Woman’s Property Act or 1848.)

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Published in: on July 25, 2022 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  

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