Women market traders and fishwives

Huge numbers of people came to the city for the annual fairs. The demand for food at that time increased considerably. It was the women living in Poznań who took it on themselves to ensure that people visiting the fairs were not going hungry. Thanks to the women selling herring, geese, oil and groat as well as working as innkeepers and gardeners, trade deals could be made at richly laid tables.

What is more, women from Poznań were also actively involved in trade, especially on the local level. The wives of merchants helped the family businesses at market stalls. Moreover, in the case of their husbands’ death, they were capable of keeping the businesses running on their own. Many married and unmarried women traded textiles. They sold ‘Polish plain weave (…), shirts, towels, scarfs’ (selling more luxurious fabrics required having a separate privilege). There were also times when Poznań women even dominated the city’s flour and butter trade.

Women selling fish, Anton Möller, Księga gdańskich ubiorów kobiecych (1601), from the collection of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Gdańsk Library

Main photo - Women market traders and fishwives