Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Philadelphia and Its People in Maps:
The 1790s

Female Heads of Household

map showing homes with female heads of household

Map Copyright 2012, Paul Sivitz and Billy G. Smith, published with permission.


Women headed one of every eight Philadelphia households. They spread across the city, with a slight concentration in the northern blocks where housing cost less. Employment opportunities for women, whether single or married, were limited by the society’s definition of proper gender roles. Approximately half of female household heads engaged in two types of work: (1) running a boardinghouse, inn, tavern, or lodging house, or (2) operating a small store or a huckster shop, mostly catering to other women.

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