Davidoff, Leonore 1932–

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Davidoff, Leonore 1932–

PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1932, in New York, NY; daughter of Leo M. (a neurosurgeon) and Ida (a family therapist; maiden name, Fisher) Davidoff; married David Lockwood (a sociology professor) September 24, 1954; children: Benjamin, Matthew, Harold. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1953; London School of Economics and Political Science, London, M.A., 1956; University of Essex, Ph.D., 1983. Hobbies and other interests: Swimming, bicycling, walking, being an active grandmother of six.

ADDRESSES: Home—82 High St., Wivenhoe, Essex CO7 9AB, England. Office—Department of Sociology, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester C04 3SQ, England; fax: 44-1206-873410. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, research officer, 1956–57; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, senior member of Lucy Cavendish College, 1962–68; University of Essex, Colchester, England, research officer, 1969–74, lecturer, 1975–88, senior lecturer, 1988–90, research professor, 1990–, founding director of Centre for Cultural and Social History; visiting professor at University of Wisconsin, 1987, and Rutgers University, 1988; visiting fellow at University of Melbourne, 1993, and Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Social Science, 1996. Gender and History, founder and editor, 1989–95; Women's Research and Resources Centre, London, founding member; Vera Douie Fellowship Committee, Women's Library, London.

AWARDS, HONORS: Nuffield Foundation fellow, 1980; honorary doctorate, University of Bergen, 2000.


The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette, and the Season, Croom Helm (London, England), 1973, Hutchinson (London, England), 1986.

(Editor, with Belinda Westover) Our Work, Our Lives, Our Words: Women's History and Women's Work, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Catherine Hall) Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1987, new edition, 2002.

Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Megan Doolittle, Janet Fink, and Katherine Holden) The Family Story: Blood, Contract and Intimacy, 1830–1960, Addison-Wesley (Boston, MA), 1998.

Contributor to Cambridge Social History of Britain, edited by F.M.L. Thompson, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Role of Kinship Relations in Nineteenth Century English Society.

SIDELIGHTS: Leonore Davidoff's career in sociology has centered around her research on British social history and gender relations in history. The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette, and the Season is a study of life in late Victorian and Edwardian England and the role of women in enforcing the unwritten rules of society. A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement wrote that "etiquette became formalized…. The great houses had been political as well as social centres, until men of the upper classes took to arranging their affairs in the office and the club; by mid-century the ladies at home took over as the leaders and arbiters of society." These women oversaw the rituals of introductions, marriages, mourning, calling, and dining. This reviewer called the book "a strictly objective evaluation, from a sociological point of view."

Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780–1850, written by Davidoff and Catherine Hall, documents the development of the middle-class family, using a variety of sources, including diaries, letters, wills, and other records. The authors focus on industrial Birmingham and the agricultural communities of Essex and Suffolk. The book is "deeply interesting, superbly researched," wrote John Burnett in the Times Literary Supplement. Burnett said that the book's significance rests on the "proper place" given to women in the creation of the middle-class economy. Burnett noted that women have been "largely left out" of history books and that in Family Fortunes "the balance is redressed." Erica Harth wrote in the Women's Review of Books that Family Fortunes is "a splendid book," showing how families "made the transition from a land-based economy to one in which liquid capital was dominant." Harth wrote "In the beginning … was the family … wives and other women of the family did collaborate in many enterprises … undertook managerial and other duties in retail trade … marriage naturally played an essential part in the formation of those networks of personal relations that supported entrepreneurial activity." Harth pointed out that large families were beneficial to family business, and men worked to provide for their families and create the ideal domestic setting which they also aspired to enjoy. In the increasingly capitalist late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the family was spiritualized "as a source of moral order in the increasingly amoral atmosphere," said Harth. Women's lives now revolved around their homes. Instead of husbands and wives leading complementary lives, the roles were changing. Men functioned outside the home in their businesses, clubs, and societies. Women's lives became even more restrictive as the management of large households became their full-time jobs. Middle-class women "had even less control of property than their counterparts in the eighteenth century," wrote Harth, who also said they "became eerily invisible…. Birds in gilded cages."

Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class is a collection of essays. It contains well-known essays as well as two previously unpublished pieces, including a long conceptual article on the public and private from the late eighteenth to the twentieth century. John Tosh, in reviewing the book for History Today, called it a "rich volume" that also includes Davidoff's "more recent reflections on feminist history."

Davidoff once told CA: "Ever since my post-graduate thesis on married women's work, I have been interested in the way gender and class have framed the way the home, family, and economy have been perceived and experienced in the modern period. In particular, domestic service, neither fully part of family life nor of the waged sector, illustrates how ambiguous and incomplete our understanding remains about the way our present society divides personal and public life and how this differs for women and men. My perspective on gender relations has inevitably influenced the journal Gender and History which I founded in 1989."



Choice, September, 1987, p. 200; March, 1988, p. 1154.

History Today, September, 1996, John Tosh, review of Worlds Between: Historical Perspectives on Gender and Class, p. 57.

Journal of Social History, summer, 1989, p. 774.

Library Journal, March 1, 1974, p. 654.

Literature and History, autumn, 1988, p. 218.

London Review of Books, March 17, 1988, pp. 22-23.

Spectator, July 11, 1987, p. 35.

Times Literary Supplement, November 30, 1973, review of The Best Circles: Society, Etiquette, and the Season, p. 1473; December 19, 1986, p. 1434; September 11, 1987, John Burnett, review of Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780–1850, p. 995.

Women's Review of Books, April, 1988, Erica Harth, review of Family Fortunes, p. 19.

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Davidoff, Leonore 1932–

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