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Breaking the Ties That BoundThe Politics of Marital Strife in Late Imperial Russia$
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Barbara Alpern Engel

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801449512

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801449512.001.0001

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Earning My Own Crust of Bread

Earning My Own Crust of Bread

(p.131) 5 Earning My Own Crust of Bread
Breaking the Ties That Bound

Barbara Alpern Engel

Cornell University Press

In the decades before the onset of World War I, the expansion of opportunities for waged labor outside the home was a key contributing factor to the growing numbers of divorces and formal separations that occurred in Europe. Offering an alternative to women's economic dependence on their husbands, the ability to earn an independent wage enabled women to leave intolerable marriages if they chose. But remunerative labor might contribute to marital breakdown in another way as well. By broadening horizons and enhancing wives' sense of self, it could prompt dissatisfaction with a relationship the women might otherwise have accepted. This chapter explores these two, sometimes separate, sometimes inter-related processes in the context of late nineteenth-century Russia, where the significance of extradomestic labor, women's extradomestic labor included, gave it a key role in many women's appeals. The ability to earn their own living offered some women a basis for affirming selfhood and subjectivity and for presenting themselves as rights-bearing subjects rather than, or in addition to, supplicants and victims. Women's self-presentations almost invariably elicited a sympathetic response from others, officials among them.

Keywords:   working women, waged labor, married women, extradomestic labor, selfhood, self-representation

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