Place
in Myth and materiality in a woman’s world
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Women dominated the Shetland landscape in the nineteenth century. Shetland was a woman's place in terms of its demography and its economy. The dominant images of Shetland women promulgated by nineteenth-century visitors to the islands gave the impression that women were fully implicated in the economic life of the community. But in fact women were marginal to the main economic activity of fishing. Fishing, crofting and knitting provided the economic backbone, albeit an extremely insecure one, for the majority of inhabitants of the scattered settlements of rural Shetland throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. For the whole of the nineteenth century there were appreciably more women than men in the Shetland Islands. The fact is that Shetland had an astonishing demography, perhaps almost a unique one. And that material difference had cultural consequences of great moment.

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