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Tabitha Lambert-Bramwell

History, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Domestic servants, professionalisation and the women's emancipation movement, 1870-1914

My thesis examines the relationships between domestic servants and newly professionalised middle-class women in Britain between 1870 and 1914. The emergence of professional women workers coincided with a period of time when domestic servants made up the largest occupational group of women workers. The vast majority of middle-class household would have employed at least one servant. In light of this, I consider the role played by servants in facilitating middle-class women’s entry into formal education and professional work and aim to illuminate the agency of servants in their own right. My thesis examines the formation of middle-class women’s identities; how did middle-class women navigate their dual roles as employers of servants and professional workers, and how did these relationships influence cross-class relationships more widely in modern Britain? I question how middle-class women working from home and their servants navigated the shared space of the home, and how this influenced ideals of privacy at home. Furthermore, I consider how servants’ roles changed on the international stage and were influenced by migration and travel.

As well as utilising life-writing, correspondence, periodicals and other forms of published literature, my research will benefit from quantitative methodologies. At present there are no established statistics regarding the correlation between women who took up professional work in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and whether they employed fewer or more servants than unemployed middle-class women. Through a combination of census records, employment advertisements and the records of servants’ registries, I will contribute towards a wider understanding of the scale and interconnectedness of the women’s labour force in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain.

My research contributes towards histories of women’s work, feminism and class in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain. I will argue that domestic servants played a central and pivotal role to the expansion of the professional female workforce and the Women’s Emancipation Movement.  

Research Area

  • Cultural History
  • History


  • Domestic Service, Professionalisation and Middle-Class Femininity in the Memoir of Annie S. Swan, Romance, Revolution & Reform: 'Labour in the Long Nineteenth Century', University of Southampton, 5th and 6th January 2024
  • Domestic Service, Imperialism and the British Women's Emigration Association, 1884-1914. Contemporary History and Politics Seminar, University of Nottingham, 13th October 2023
  • "This is a Very Fine Country to Get on in": Domestic Servants and the Construction of a Colonial Working-Class, 1884-1914, Midlands4Cities Research Festival, 4th October 2023
  • 'Hands Across the Sea': Domestic Service, Imperialism and the British Women's Emigration Association, 1884-1914, Women's History Network Annual Conference: Women and Migration, 1st and 2nd September 2023
  • Poster presentation, Culture, Power and Identity: School of History and Cultures Postgraduate Research Conference, University of Birmingham, 5th May 2023
  • 'Women's experiences of workhouses, 1858-1918' Historical Perspectives Online Seminar Series, 19th October 2022

Public Engagement & Impact

  • I have been a guest speaker for branches of the Women's Institute and the National Women's Register, as well as local historic interest societies.

Awards & Scholarships

  • Midlands4Cities Doctoral Training Partnership, 2022-2026
  • Birmingham Research Institute of the School of History and Cultures Masters scholarship, 2019-2020

Other Activities

  • Postgraduate Teaching Associate, 'The Making of the Contemporary World: 1800 to Present' (1st Year Undergraduate), January 2024 -
  • Editorial Assistant, Victorian Literature and Culture, March 2024 -
  • Co-organiser, 'Gender and Sexuality in Modern British History and Beyond' Workshop, 3rd July 2024, University of Birmingham