Girls on forms: Apprenticing young women in seventeenth-century London

Laura Gowing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
403 Downloads (Pure)


The 1650s saw an influx of young women to skilled apprenticeships in London's companies. Apprenticed to women through the names of their husbands, they practiced seamstry and millinery in a wide range of guilds. The preprinted forms by which these girls were indentured demonstrate the means by which a long-established city institution both made room for women, incorporating them into the culture of company, and kept them marginal. A series of print and manuscript adaptations marked out girls' forms, paying particular attention to the rules around marriage, and resulting, by the late seventeenth century, in a new trend towards non-sex-specific forms. This article argues that record keeping was both symbolically and concretely important for women's work and that the material culture and context of these print objects can shed a new light on gender roles at a key juncture in the histories of work, contracts, and the city.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-473
Number of pages27
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


  • Forms
  • Gender
  • Guilds
  • Labour
  • London
  • Milliners
  • Print
  • Stationery
  • Women
  • Work


Dive into the research topics of 'Girls on forms: Apprenticing young women in seventeenth-century London'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this