Gender and Work

A fictitious example

The verb-oriented method and the structure of the information contained in the database can be illustrated with the aid of a few well-known literary characters. In the book Emil and His Clever Pig (original title: Än lever Emil i Lönneberga), Astrid Lindgren describes the harvest work on the farm Katthult.

Far away in the field, Emil’s father and Alfred were working away with their scythes and behind them came Lina and Krösa-Maja, gathering up the cut rye and tying it into sheaves. That was the way it was done in those days.

In this short example we find many concrete descriptions about who did what tasks. Emil’s father and Alfred work with scythes while Lina and Krösa-Maja gather rye and tie sheaves. In the database, then, three different activities are registered, and these activities are connected to the respective individuals.

In addition, the book’s short passage tells the reader where the work took place: in the field. This information is also registered in the database.

The user who is familiar with Emil knows that the four individuals concerned worked under differing conditions. Emil’s father was the master and superior, the farmhand, Alfred, and the maid, Lina, were servants, and Krösa-Maja, who lived in on a croft in the forest, performed work on a temporary basis at the Katthult farm. (For inclusion in the database, it is a requirement for ordinary cases that information regarding work conditions be present in the registered source text.)

Taken together, these data give us the following connections.


In addition, the following elements are registered, according to whether they are present either directly or indirectly: gender, marital status (Emil’s father is married, while Alfred and Lina are unmarried), household affiliation (Emil’s father, Alfred, and Lina belong to the same household), place for the work performed as well as the individuals’ home (Katthult in Lönneberga parish), and that the work takes place in the countryside, outdoors, and in a field.
Earlier in the text there is also a date given for the activity: 10 August.

In this manner, a number of discrete pieces of information from a single case are connected in a way that facilitates compilation and comparison with other cases. For example, we might search for women working in a field, temporary work carried out in August, or unmarried persons in the countryside.

When we have gathered a sufficiently large number of real cases of this type, we can determine to what extent they reflect reality in earlier time periods.