Business women in Hastings & St Leonards include:

1. women (mainly middle class educated spinsters) who set up private schools and seminaries for elementary-school children or young ladies

2. women with a (typically female) apprenticed trade (e.g. milliners, dressmakers)

3. women who owned non-apprenticed businesses (e.g. shopkeepers, licensees of pubs; lodging-house owners)

4. Sole traders, for example private tutors (usually of painting, music or singing); masseuses

Hastings & St Leonards had an unusually large number of tradeswomen in a wide range of occupations from printing to straw hat making. Some began by working alongside their husbands, inherited the business on his death, and ran it themselves. Widow-shopkeepers were particularly well-represented in All Saints' Street and High Street, Hastings. These areas were old, run-down, and included many tiny cottages crowded together along narrow roads where shop rents were cheap.

Clothes were made by hand and to order, and, thanks to the large number of well-to-do ladies in Hastings, there was plenty of work, in the summer at least, for dressmakers and milliners.

There were also some female publicans and hoteliers and house proprietors. A small number of women were employed in other, miscellaneous occupations.

The more prosperous working class women rented premises and opened up small grocery shops. Hawked on the streets and beaches. They sold flowers, toffee apples, ice cream, cold drinks, shrimps, oysters and whelks, and offered donkey and goat rides and even fortune-telling, sometimes by budgerigar.

Adverts in Hastings newspapers, 1840s

Introduction page

Working class women

Living conditions




Lady Waldegrave

Site map