In the Victorian Era, most women were housewives. These women stayed at home and tended to the house and family, but there were a small percentage of women that had other occupations.
About 3% of all white women during the Victorian era and 25% of all black women were part of the working force and worked for wages. Most of these women were either a maid, nurse, laundress, teacher, psychiatrist, or social worker. Since there were so few women who worked at these jobs, only 9 out of every 10 homes had domestic help (maid, nurse, or laundress). Besides these jobs there is also another way that some wives stayed at home and earned money. This was by farming; some farm wives earned money from selling butter, milk, and other farm products that they produced on their farm.
Women had very little choice in those days and one only has to read the article that was in the Perth Courier in 1880.
Perth Courier, September 10, 1880
Child Desertion—Port Elmsley—On Monday evening, at about 10:00, Mrs. McNab and family, living on the Smith’s Falls Road about two miles from this place, were aroused by a knock at the door.
On going out, a man presented himself saying he had a parcel for Miss McNab, who lives across the road. Mrs. McNab kindly requested that the parcel be left with her to be delivered in the morning. The stranger handed Mrs. McNab a letter and started away as if to get the parcel but to their surprise there was a woman sitting in the buggy holding the horse on the road and he stepped in and the pair drove off.
They went to see which way they were going and found a basket which they supposed contained the parcel but upon examination it was found to contain a baby girl about five months old and also a considerable amount of clothing. On opening the letter the mystery was revealed. It was headed “Kingston” and said that they were man and wife but their marriage was a secret one and they were forced to part with their darling and asking that the child be cared for and brought up as one of their own.
The mother of the child repented of the rash act and returned two days later saying she could not live without the child and begging them to let her have her child and allow her to return home. She gave them her name as Smith and said that she was from Montreal. The mother was brought before the Council and it was decided after hearing the entire story that if the woman was willing to take her child and promised to care for it in the future, it was best to return it to her.