How did capitalism affect women's employment? Were there continuities or changes in the gender division of labour in the Industrial Revolution? Using previously unexploited material from poor law and court records, Pamela Sharpe examines these questions through the words of labouring women in Essex and in London. By both exploring connections between rural and urban areas of the economy and being aware of the need to consider custom and ideology, as well as economic factors, when explaining patterns of women's employment, she widens current debates within womenOs history. She stresses that a local and regional approach is essential to the study of economic change and that a full picture of industrialising Britain will not be complete without due consideration of women's role. Deliberately attempting to bridge the divide between studies of early modern and modern women, this book will appeal to historians, sociologists, geographers and anthropologists.