The Right Woman in the Right Place. The Lifestyle of Jeanette Snellman (1817–1878) as a 19th-Century Bourgeois Woman in Oulu, Finland

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa, lecture hall L3

Topic of the dissertation

The Right Woman in the Right Place. The Lifestyle of Jeanette Snellman (1817–1878) as a 19th-Century Bourgeois Woman in Oulu, Finland

Doctoral candidate

Master of Arts Riikka Isoaho-Nousiainen

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Humanities, History, Culture and Communications

Subject of study



Professor Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen, University of Turku


Professor Tiina Kinnunen, University of Oulu

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The Right Woman in the Right Place. The Lifestyle of Jeanette Snellman (1817–1878) as a 19th-Century Bourgeois Woman in Oulu, Finland

The lifestyle of gentry women is studied through their life experiences, ways of thinking, and agency. Jeanette Snellman plays the lead role in this doctoral dissertation. Jeanette was the wife of J. W. Snellman G:son (1809–1881), owner of the Snellman trading house, and the mother of a large family. The trading house was founded around the same time Jeanette and J. W. married; this house grew at the same time as the Snellman family. This research is a contribution from Northern Finland to the broader Finnish and European field of gentry lifestyle research. This dissertation is anchored in the tradition of women’s history research, where questions related to women’s everyday lives are important: what women have done and thought.

This research makes bourgeois women a more visible part of the history of the city of Oulu, the capital of northern Finland. Research is intertwined with the fields of women’s and gender history, urban and gentry history, and family history. Methodologically, this research is a microhistorically oriented biographical study examining one woman’s life concerning the world around her. It is a person-centred historical study where the target person is seen as a way to analyse broader phenomena. Key theoretical concepts are gender and social class, performativity, social capital, and networks. Jeanette’s correspondence forms the main source material. Moreover, the Oulu parish’s church records are utilised when analysing the formation of the Snellman family’s social status.

The Snellman couple formed a partnership alliance in accordance with the ideals of the current gentry, in which both parties worked for a common goal: family happiness. Jeanette was active and determined in those areas of life reserved for a gentry woman in the current society and in which she could act. Tending to the practical affairs of the large house was particularly the lady’s responsibility. Jeanette was responsible for managing the household and organising the daily life of the entire 11-person family. The days were spent planning the menu, keeping track of the food rations, guiding and supervising the servants, and performing countless everyday chores—work that Jeanette considered equal to her husband’s. She also looked after her husband’s business partners, maintained relations with relatives and acquaintances living near and far, arranged matters related to the children’s schooling, and sometimes even headed the trading house in her husband’s absence.

The main title, “The Right Woman in the Right Place”, reflects Jeanette’s way of life in several ways. First, the study refers specifically to Jeanette’s willingness and ability to meet the expectations placed on a gentry woman as accurately and conscientiously as possible. Her energetic effort to fulfil her duties as wife, mother, and housewife was successful. In this sense, Jeanette can be said to have been the right woman in the right place. Second, Jeanette was still a staunch representative of the early modern society of the estates who wanted to hold on to her family’s privileged position at the top of the hierarchy of the urban community and was willing to work hard to maintain her status. Jeanette wanted to remain in her own gentry place. The title also refers to the conception of a woman’s place in the 1800s: a woman’s place was primarily at home—as a mother taking care of children and the home; she was also expected to be a supporter and partner alongside her husband.
Last updated: 23.1.2024