Women purchase fresh fish at the market. From Shakespeare's England.

Not only was the housewife responsible for the physical well-being of the family, but she was actively involved in the productivity of the estate: under her guidance were produced vegetables from the garden; woollen, linen and hempen thread; dairy products; and malt, together with its end-products of beer and ale. If we add her activities in the yard, there would also have been eggs and various fowl for eating.

All these products were not only eaten by the household, they were sold in the markets, bringing in money from outside.

From manager to servant?

The wife's economic importance assured her a status which, in practical terms, was close to being that of an equal partner with her husband. It follows that the social status of the wife was far higher than that of the unmarried woman: the unmarried woman was accustomed to a life of menial domestic labour as a servant, whereas the wife assumed an almost managerial role, supervising the activities of the maids in the kitchen, the dairy or the nursery.

It was during this period, however, that several domestic industries began to be centralized in the cities; thus professional tradesmen took over the housewife's economic role. See the sections on the brewer, the dyer and the weaver.