Elise van Nederveen Meerkerk and Richard Paping, ‘Beyond the census. Reconstructing Dutch women’s labour market participation in agriculture in the Netherlands, ca. 1830–1910’, The History of the Family 19:4 (2014) 447–468.
Many historians have pointed out for various countries that nineteenth-century national censuses do not accurately reflect women’s economic activity. This was no different for the Dutch national censuses. In this article, we argue that under-recording was especially severe in agriculture, and that this problem increased towards the end of the century. The rise in under-recording was partly due to an increased irregularity of women’s work on farms, but it also reflected changing living standards and ideologies, in which work was increasingly defined as undesirable for women. In relative terms, agriculture did become less important to men and women alike because of mechanization and industrialization. Nevertheless, agriculture continued to employ many women, especially married women and daughters working on their husbands’ and fathers’ farms. By offering additional source material and methods for estimating women’s labour force participation in agriculture on a regional level, such as relating their occupational status to their husbands’, and estimating the number of days worked, we aim to offer an enhanced methodology for gauging the work of women in agriculture, which may be applied to future research.