English women’s economic thought in the 1790s

Domestic economy, married women’s economic dependence, and access to professions

Authored by: Joanna Rostek

The Routledge Handbook of the History of Women’s Economic Thought

Print publication date:  September  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138852341
eBook ISBN: 9781315723570
Adobe ISBN:


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In 1798, Priscilla Wakefield, author and philanthropist with “a claim to be seen as the founder of the earliest savings bank in England” (“Priscilla Wakefield: Life”), notes at the outset of her Reflections on the Present Condition of the Female Sex:

It is asserted by Doctor Adam Smith, that every individual is a burden upon the society to which he belongs, who does not contribute his share of productive labour for the good of the whole. [. . .] [Smith] does not absolutely specify, that both sexes [. . .] are equally required to comply with these terms; but since the female sex is included in the idea of the species, and as women possess the same qualities as men, though perhaps in a different degree, their sex cannot free them from the claim of the public for their proportion of usefulness.

1798, p. 2

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