Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Girls started working as apprentices at craft workshops at the age of 10 or 11 in many medieval European towns. Especially for girls from poor families, it was typical to leave their parents and home at such an early age to look for employment. When a girl left home for work, she was also breaking the parental control that she had in the domestic space as a young girl. Loosened adult control and increased income often introduced the girl into the transition from girlhood to her adulthood.

However, girl apprentices rarely acquired complete economic independence, or fully transitioned to adulthood in reality. They remained with a special role in the world of work: girl apprentices were seen as labor with ability to learn and provide, meanwhile they were also treated as children who required adult control. For example, in Ireland, girls working in mills and factories usually got a small portion of their wage. The rest of their wage would be directly paid to their families.

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