For long, international comparisons of female labour force participation (FLFP) have been based on aggregate source material, most notably censuses. However, the lion’s share of today’s historians agree that censuses have systematically underreported women’s work activities. Consequently, scholars relying on this source have found a nineteenth-century Dutch male breadwinner society while others have found that the Dutch female labour force was quite extensive. This discrepancy in the historiography is in need of closer scrutiny. The current study shows that by the end of the nineteenth century, in industrial regions married women indeed withdrew from the registered labour market but instead engaged in other types of labour relations that could easily be combined with homemaking duties and that remained invisible in the census. Furthermore, this article argues that the fact that married women provided an income did not necessarily contradict the growing ideal of domesticity. The alternative types of work married women took up were rather a way of reconciling this ideal with keeping the household on a respectable level of existence.
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