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Late Nineteenth-Century Swimming Teachers in England

Day, David (2019) Late Nineteenth-Century Swimming Teachers in England. In: Histories of Women’s Work in Global Sport: A Man’s World? Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 49-74. ISBN 978-3-030-26908-1

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Abstract

Nineteenth-century English society was inherently patriarchal and women’s role within that world has often been interpreted through the lens of “separate spheres,” the belief that women were best suited to a life of domesticity. However, confinement to domesticity was never a feature of many women’s lives within the working classes or in the lower reaches of the middle class. While wage labour was often seen as a transitional stage for young women between school and marriage, paid employment remained commonplace among women for much of the century and in 1860 it was estimated that more than three million females over 15,including over 780,000 married women, were in employment. The majority were working-class women engaged in waged manual work, in contrast to working middle-class women who were often salaried and in supervisory positions, but class boundaries were never strictly delineated and some female occupations straddled the intersections between these populations. This chapter adds to the limited literature on this social group through an exploration of female swimming teachers, women whose class origins lay within the skilled working classes and the lower middle classes, which highlights the ongoing influence of patriarchy on their careers.

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