« 2021. # 1 (157)

The Ethnology Notebooks. 2021. # 1 (157), P. 53—64

УДК 94(477.83-25)”18″-055.26-058.34



  • PhD in History, Research Fellow,
  • Department of Social Anthropology,
  • Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine,
  • 15, Svobody Avenue, 79000, Lviv, Ukraine
  • e-mail:


This article is dedicated to one of the most unexplored group of that time Lemberg’ citizens – working women, their private lives and motherhood experiences. Despite of the fact that they represented the majority of female urban population, their stories are still untold. Partly because of the silence of sources with their direct speeches, partly because of the need to select information about them from the testimonies of others – correspondence of their employers, press and literature of that time. The relevance and purpose of this paper is driven by the lacunas in this area and the lack of its analysis, hence by the desire to contribute to it. Labour migration from countryside to the city obviously affected matrimonial market, making women more economically independent, but also (which was not surprising) uncovering their vulnerability. Single motherhood was becoming more and more visible experience of working women’ private life in that time city.

The sources of this research are above mentioned testimonies of others (private correspondence of employers and press) as well as the criminal cases about infanticide, child abandonment and abortion, which were considered by Lemberg Regional Court in 1865—1905. The stories of these cases were covering in fact small autobiographies of accused women, since the investigative interest had required very detailed self-narrations from defendants. These stories are especially interesting in regards to industrialization, urbanization and emancipation as a key processes of that time society, which enlarged dramatically percentage of women on the labour market and their mobility.

In this research I use a combination of two methods, content analysis and critical discourse analysis. The first makes information from the sources systematically comparable, the second one helps me to explore the links between language use and social practices. These stories fall into genre of the microstudy  — the history of individuals, small communities, exclusiveness or randomness, examples of which shed light on the one of the most «silent» experiences of everyday live in late 19th century in Lemberg.

My key research conclusions are based on the thesis of special connection between women’ poverty and sexuality at that time society. To be poor for women meant to live under much more severe social pressure and ongoing risk to be compromised regardless of real facts or just assumptions.

Keywords: women, illegitimate children, motherhood, criminal cases, late 19th century, Lemberg.


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