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Femina migrans. German Domestic Servants in Paris, 1870-1914, a Case Study

Abstract : Mobility has a long tradition on the European continent. Recent historical research shows migration as a "normal and structural element of human societies throughout history." 1 Among these people on the move were young men and women working as servants and domestics in farm or urban households. Before the nineteenth century most of them covered shorter distances and thus participated in a rural-rural movement, not yet fully explored by historical research. 2 Beginning in the late eighteenth century the steady extension of a bourgeois lifestyle imitating noble habits lead to an increasing demand for domestics in many urban middle-class households. 3 Due to rural overpopulation and the poverty that accompanied it, the nineteenth century saw a rising number of single young women migrating mostly-but not exclusively-from the countryside to the towns. The improved transportation infrastructure supported this migration movement. Thus, domestic work became the main way of integrating young rural women into urban wage-working. It was also the main reason for women to migrate. 4 In the 1880s between 30 percent and 40 percent of all women employed in Europe were working in city households. 5 Working as a domestic was hence an experience shared by great numbers of young women in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. Long unattended by historical research, migration of women and especially of domestics is now explored through family, cultural, gender, and transnational history, as well as historical demography. 6 Femina migrans was a decisive agent. 7 Women acted
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Mareike König. Femina migrans. German Domestic Servants in Paris, 1870-1914, a Case Study. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, University of Nebraska Press, 2012, 33 (3), pp.93-115. ⟨10.5250/fronjwomestud.33.3.0093⟩. ⟨halshs-02005907⟩

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