Male and female silk weavers in the workshops of the Lyons Fabrique in the mid-nineteenth century

By Manuela Martini, Pierre Vernus

This paper proposes a gendered analysis of one of the most emblematic workers’ worlds of the nineteenth century: the Lyons silk weaving Fabrique. The organization of the silk industry in Lyons allows us to study, on the one hand, the gendered division of labor in a range of highly specialized trades and, on the other hand, men and women at work in the same space and performing similar tasks. This occupational coexistence, which was not very common in mid-nineteenth century workplaces, is the focus of this paper. We start by outlining the features of this mixed universe, at a pivotal moment in the transformation of the Lyons Fabrique, when it expanded into the hills and plateau of the Croix-Rousse area. We then address an issue that has received little attention in the vast historiography of the canuts: the diversity and heterogeneity of the group of workshop heads. Finally, to identify some of the key features of this diversity, we zoom in on the family workshop, viewing marriage as the foundational moment of the production unit and means of strengthening the professional bonds necessary for it to function.

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