|dc.description.abstract||My research study deals with the wealth, social position, and fashion awareness
of farmers’ wives in Gamlakarleby (Kokkola) parish in the latter half of the
eighteenth century. In addition, I investigate the picture that present national
costumes give about eighteenth century dressing. The aim is to examine farmer
wives’ wealth in the villages of Karleby (Gamlakarleby socken) and the village of
Nedervetil, which were part of the class society regulated by the Church Law of
1686 and the Swedish Civil Code enacted in 1734.
The perspective of my research is microhistorical, which means that I study
individual persons and phenomena in the villages of Gamlakarleby parish, and I
mention the persons of my data by their names. My research data consists of
farmer wives’ inventories (65 in all), whose clothes records I have compared with
those of twelve burgher wives in the town of Gamlakarleby. Complementary
data is made up of three male burghers’ inventories from Gamlakarleby as well
as of church records from the town of Gamlakarleby, the mother parish of
Gamlakarleby, and the parish of Nedervetil. The focus of my research is on Maria
Laiberg, whose clothes record, described as petty-bourgeois, awoke my interest.
Maria Laiberg was the daughter of parish clerk Thomas Laiberg from the village
of Kaustar. She was married to church painter Johan Backman (born Bastubacka).
Their family lived first in the town of Gamlakarleby but moved to Nedervetil in
1754 when a chapel parish was established there, to be led by vicar Anders
Chydenius. I connect the case study of Maria Laiberg to my second case which
incorporates seven other women belonging to the wider Bastubacka family, most
of whom died in the latter half of the eighteenth century.
I estimated the wealth of farmers’ wives based on the property that was
recorded in their inventories, the most important items in the lists of objects
being silver and money as well as horses and other livestock and wearing clothes.
Immovable property was also recorded in women’s inventories, but as the
husbands typically owned the whole estates, I did not include the value of the
farming estates when estimating the wives’ wealth. Neither did I consider the
impact of inflation in my estimate because I focussed on investigating how the
wealth of the women developed in rough terms. Women’s wealth increased
towards the end of the century, access to imported fabrics was made easier, and
the prices of fabrics decreased. However, women’s property in clothes was not
directly comparable to the property of the estate; what mattered was also the
woman’s sewing skills and ability to accumulate her property in clothes by way
of barter. The new, best and less worn out clothes were first and foremost
recorded in the clothes lists of the inventories whereas the recording of worn out
and old clothes was irregular and less systematic.
As to their social status, I found the women of my study to be a relatively
uniform class, which distinguished itself by dressing according to legislation
including the sumptuary laws. However, in a more exacting way, the bench
order of each church stipulated everyone’s position in their community. When
comparing the attire of burgher women in the town of Gamlakarleby and peasant
women in the parish of Gamlakarleby, I looked at differences in terms of the
value and mobility of clothes. This revealed definite differences in festive
dressing, but the more everyday clothes turned out to be quite similar. The
names of fabrics and clothes displayed that the Gamlakarleby burgher women
followed the European fashion, but peasant women also followed fashion trends.
They were not able to use the very same fabrics and designs as the burgher
women. Their festive dress was made up of two main parts, the jacket and the
skirt. The dress can be identified as the common folk fashionable dress even if
instances of this dress are not uniform, deriving from the models of the European
courts, as in the case of the highest classes during the centuries.
National costumes are variants of historical festive dresses from the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The peasant women in the parish of
Gamlakarleby were fashion conscious. Yet, in their dressing, elements such as the
apron, silk scarf and headdress (styckemössa) remained for a long time and also
became integral parts of the national costume. The national costumes from my
area of research were established by the association Föreningen Brage r.f. in the
early twentieth century, a period when folk dresses in the Swedish-speaking
regions of Finland were revitalised as national costumes. The costumes of
Karleby, Öja and Nedervetil were designed based on oral records and some few
clothes that remained. The woman’s national costume for the Gamlakarleby
region is the most recent and the region’s only national costume where the
primary data for its design is based on clothes lists in inventories.
The peasant women in the Gamlakarleby region were not particularly
wealthy, but they had a solid financial standing. Being the wife of a popular
church painter, Maria Laiberg stands out by her dressing from the rest of the
wives in the village of Nedervetil, and the clothes of burgher wives in the town of
Gamlakarleby are an indication of wealth. Women followed fashion trends not
only because the town had a bustling harbour and staple rights to import goods
from the rest of world but also because the inhabitants were active and
innovative. Exports from Gamlakarleby were made up of tar and timber but also
intellectual capital, which can even today be seen in the works of Anders