Alice Clark’s Critique of Capitalism
Alice Clark’s The Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (1919) continues to influence economic, gender, labor, cultural, and social historians a century after its publication. Decades of intensive research (much of it inspired by Clark) have led scholars to question her methodology, chronology, assumptions, and conclusions, yet the boldness of her thesis still shines bright. This essay investigates why she chose to write her book, despite having no formal training or university qualifications, and why she focused on the seventeenth century. It finds the answers in her curious biography as a Quaker industrialist active in the suffrage movement and suggests that, despite its faults, her critique of gender and capitalism continues to warrant attention.