Working women in 19th century Italy

This remarkable piece of social history comes from an 1881 “Advertiser Notes & Queries.” Do you sense a bit of a Northern bias?

Helpful Women

Even in Italy husbands are becoming scarce, so that the Italian women are learning to help themselves. Work is not confined to the absolute poor; the middle classes are bringing up their daughters to learn a trade or profession, and to work at home and out of the house. The idea has proved lucrative, even in the speculation of marriage, as a man naturally prefers a girl who can earn her own living to one who can only tingle a tune on the pianoforte or sing a new song by Tosti, Denzi or Rotoli. But this is only in Upper Italy. In the southern provinces the idea of women working is laughed at. Even the men there work as little as possible, and they would rather try to live on a franc a day, without earning it, than to have two thousand francs a day and work for them. In Upper Italy, on the contrary, even the aristocracy work, and show a good example to the less fortunate classes.

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