Women’s status within the family and economy changed with industrialization. Whether the change in status worsened or improved the living standards of women divides historians into optimists and pessimists. For the optimists industrialization enhanced the position and power of women both within the family and the wider socioeconomic system by opening up hitherto closed or remote opportunities. Machinery reduced men’s strength advantage by minimizing the physical power needed for operation, paid work gave women a choice about remaining unwed, and from the midnineteenth century the breadwinning wage freed married women from the burden of earning income while caring for their families. Conversely, the pessimists argued that industrialization replaced a relatively equitable system with one in which women faced fewer employment opportunities than before, received lower wages compared with men, and were increasingly tied by legislation and ideology to gender roles inside and outside the home which impoverished them. Divorced from the labour market advantages held by their brothers and lacking the breadwinning capacities of their husbands, women remained nevertheless responsible for the unpaid and financially unrewarded work of reproduction. Women’s status within the family declined.