Steffi (legoline) wrote in little_details,

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Female Workers in 19th Century London

I am currently planning/writing an urban fantasy novel set in 19th century Victorian London, and I have been wrecking my head over what may or may not be a small detail for weeks.

I have a young female character (she's about fifteen) coming to London looking for work. For reasons that aren't important at this juncture, I need her to find work in a factory. Which is kind of where I've hit a dead end, because I can't seem to find anything on factories in Victorian London. (Did they even exist? I'm beginning to think no.)

What I found on female workers in Victorian Britain suggested that most of them worked either in service as maids, governesses etc., or in the textile industry, which at that point was centered in Lancashire and Yorkshire. Some women apparently worked in the metal industry as well, but those factories were mostly located in the area of Birmingham. I also know that some women worked as seamstresses from home, but that's not really what I had in mind for my character. Also, prostitution is not an option.

In a nutshell: my female character needs to find work in a factory in Victorian London--where could I place her? Were there any factories at all in London, or were they all centered in the heavily industrialised area such as Liverpool, Birmingham etc.?

I have no definite time set for the story within the Victorian era yet--I was leaning towards mid-19th century, but if my chances of getting my character a place in a London factory increase towards the end of the 19th century, I might tweak the setting slightly.

My character is a young, healthy girl who arrives in London penniless and at some point in the story might even end up in a work house.

If you deem this plot element completely unrealistic, I will try and adjust the story (and perhaps make her a seamstress or maid after all), but it would be a lot more convenient for the story if she could be in a factory.

Research brought up something on match manufactures but I wonder if there's something better* out there. I googled "female workers", "Victorian London", "Factories London", "Victorian Women" and variations thereof, found a ton on child labour and female workers in general, but precious little of female workers in London.

*should have clarified: reading the article it seemed like those manufactures were fairly small emplying very few people and I was wondering if there were "actual" factories (as I seem to remember that manufactures were the predecessors to factories).

It would be great if you could help me or even nudge me in the right direction for more research material. Thank you!
Tags: 1800s (no decades given)

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