Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen: Kaisa the Flea, Black Maija and Other Working-class Women. Women’s Life and Work in Early 19th-century Sweden and Finland 

The lecture will use Alexander Lauréus´s art to explore women’s opportunities in early nineteenth-century Finland and Sweden to earn their living through trades such as street peddling, inn-keeping, circus performance and sex work.

  • 29.3.2023 at 18–19
in Finnish
Seminar hall
Tickets: with a museum ticket
18 €/ 12 €/ Museum Card. Entry is free for those under 18 years. Tickets are available at the ticket office on the day of the event. 80 seats. No advance booking.
Alexander Lauréus (1783 – 1823): A Scene from a Tavern. Private collection. Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Pakarinen.

Mere fragments of information survive on the livelihoods of self-sufficient working-class women, single mothers and widows. However, we do know that in the early nineteenth century, urban woman living alone or with their children born out of wedlock still earned their living from many temporary jobs, including as washerwomen, cleaners, peddlers, day labourers and sex workers, and even through such criminal means as illicit inn-keeping, shoplifting and theft. None of these provided a full-time livelihood. Alexander Lauréus´s depictions of street, square and inn life are unique visual sources of the work done by these women.

Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen, PhD, is a professor of Finnish history at the University of Turku. She has researched the history of women’s work in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, midwives, maids and sex workers, as well as women who made a living through inn-keeping and peddling. On these subjects, she has written such books as Ujostelemattomat. Kätilöiden, synnytysten ja arjen historia (“Unabashed: History of midwives, childbirth and everyday life”, 2012) and Musta-Maija ja Kirppu-Kaisa. Seksityöläiset 1800-luvun alun Suomessa (“Black Maija and Kaisa the Flea: Sex workers in early nineteenth-century Finland”, 2018).