There was no welfare state in the 19th century so you had to have a job to earn money to survive. If you had an education you could get an apprenticeship and a better job. If you couldn’t work, you couldn’t live, something that Henry Hayton couldn’t cope with. Traditionally, men stayed in the same area as their parents and many followed their father’s occupation, or one within the same class.
The railways transformed life in Settle. The building of the railways provided plenty of work, often for men from other parts of the country, such as John Owen and Thomas Burton. Railways made it easier to move elsewhere to find work which helped Robert Chapman. Many families from Settle moved to Lancashire to find work in the cotton mills.
Women were expected to marry, keep house and raise children. There was a stigma against spinsters as they could become a financial burden to their families. To earn money they could spin (so became a ‘spinster’), or run a boarding house as Mary Clapham did. If they were educated, spinsters could be a governess, like the Jarry sisters. It was fairly unusual for a woman to run a business, unless she was a widow, or prepared to make a stand for women’s rights, like Charlotte Robinson.
Journalist WR Greg commented on spinsters as ‘the unnatural number of redundant women, which is indicative of an unwholesome social state, and is both productive and prognostic of much wretchedness and wrong.’ — 1844