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Cypress/West Oakland Historical Archaeology Project

Introduction | Part I | Part II |Part III |Part IV |Appendixes & Reports

~ Chapter 6 Detail ~
Busy As Bees cup

Personal industry was much valued by 19th-century Victorians as depicted on this decorated cup, which portrays scenes of hard work in a small town: two boys engaged in carpentry, a beehive (a sign of industry), and two blacksmiths at a forge. The “Busy as Bees” motto printed on the other side seemingly ignores the contributions of women, however. In this chapter, we examine artifacts and records from the Cypress Archaeology Project technical reports to put forth the breadth of women’s work at home in the rapidly growing working-class neighborhoods that spread in West Oakland during the late-19th-century. The artifacts excavated in conjunction with the project suggest that gender was a constitutive fact in everyday life in West Oakland, as important as any other social relationship. In West Oakland, as elsewhere, the gender divide conditioned the work available to women; the archaeological and archival records show, however, that not all of this work was as sharply differentiated along class, racial, and ethnic lines as we might expect it to have been during the 1870s and 1880s.

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