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EAUH Conference 2018


Session SS16 - Beyond the Family. Personal and Organisational Networks of Migrant Women Moving to the City, from 1600 to the Present

Coordinators: Isabelle Devos (, Hilde Greefs (, Thomas Verbruggen (

Read Session abstractBoth contemporaries and historians describe the arrival of migrant women in a (pre)modern city as a critical moment because a lack of experience and knowledge about urban society made them easy victims for crooks and fraudsters. While male migrants could rely upon extensive personal and professional networks, female migrants have been considered as being highly depending on family decisions and networks. Recently, gender and migration historians have altered this view of dependency and vulnerability of migrant women. On the one hand, studies on early modern cities have emphasized the agency of both single and married women and shown that women actively used a variety of different (survival) strategies. On the other hand, migration historians have observed that many migrant women could rely on either weak or strong personal ties that facilitated their migration and helped to find a place to stay and a proper job. These observations about agency and extensive personal networks, however, do not tell the whole story. Many migrant women were often solitary migrants without an extensive personal network in their new living environment. While some were supported by reliable recruitment agencies or middlemen, other migrant women did become victims of deceptive recruitment agencies and prostitution networks.
So far, it is still unclear which strategies were used by solitary migrant women to support their settlement in a new living environment and to find a proper job. There is little insight in: the impact of previous urban experiences of migrant women on their migration choices and settlement strategies and their different personal and organisational networks beyond the family, such as the support of colleagues or compatriots, the use of lodging houses, recruitment agencies, and confessional/philanthropic associations. This panel aims to bring together research on different urban settings in different time periods. The organizers especially welcome papers that deal with (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Different kinds of networks beyond the family of female migrants
- The role of recruitment agencies, confessional and philanthropic associations and lodging houses
- Organisational or professional networks of women
Keywords: migration; women; networks

Thursday 30th August 2018
  Room 16 15.30-17.00



The Arrival of Foreign Female Domestic Servants in Antwerp and the Role of Compatriots and Relatives as Intermediaries 1860-1880
Thomas Verbruggen

Organizing marginalized immigrant women workers: work integration social enterprises and immigrant networks in Montreal Quebec.
Deborah Leslie, Norma Rantisi

"It is not just a shelter for a woman’s head, it is her home" Homes for Single Women Immigrants in the 1930s and 1940s
Sigal Davidi

Pioneiras: Oral Histories of Women Migrants to Brasília
Emily Story