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What Were We Doing A Century Ago? Meet The 100-Year-Old You

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Although you might wish you could commute to work on a hoverboard, have sushi delivered down a pipe to your desk for lunch, and your clothes were chosen by a robot maid, sadly modern life is yet to provide such miracles.

However, in comparison to life 100 years ago, our lives are delightfully luxurious.

According to Jen Newby, author of Women's Lives: Researching Women's Social History 1800-1939, those born in the last century were more concerned with survival than living standards.

victorian woman

The good old days before cycling shorts

“If you travelled back in time to 1912, you'd probably find yourself out of a job, because many modern industries would not exist and your qualifications would be gobbledygook to potential employer,” says Newby.

“If you're an office worker, then you would be lucky to land a coveted job as a typist or clerical assistant.

Newby says that a century ago, whether you were male or female your career options were entirely dictated by the social class you had been born into.

Without money, connections and a public school education, you would have an uphill struggle.

“While the professions were still open to men -- as long as they were from the 'right' background -- almost all were closed to women. Women could not vote; they did attend universities, but at most institutions could not obtain full degrees; and doctors were still advising against schoolgirls competing with boys in examinations.”

girton college

Girton College was England's first residential college for woman, established in 1869.

But if you were lucky enough to get a job, you’d then be forced to interact with the outside world. Not an entirely pleasant experience.

“One of the first things that you'd notice would be the smell of body odour. While we're used to putting on fresh clothes every day, in 1912 this was something that only the wealthy could afford to do," comments Newby.

While a debutante might have changed her clothes three or four times a day, a maidservant was lucky to get a weekly bath, and would have probably shared the water with at least one other person, she explains.

Only the better off enjoyed an indoor toilet, and poorer communities shared brimming, pungent outdoor facilities with the whole street.

bath

Servants were lucky to bath one a week in the last century

And if at this point, you’re thinking -- well, at least they were tight-knit communities filled with laughter, fun and no sense of the 21st work culture -- shake that thought away.

“You would see your leisure time instantly shrink, as most workers, whether factory or office employees, only had Sundays off," says Newby.

However, this might have been a blessing as in most towns there were limited sources of amusement for working people beyond parks, public libraries, the occasional trip to a music hall.

Pubs were the exclusive domain of men, and women were considered of easy virtue if they propped up a bar. The strongest stimulant most working women enjoyed was a cup of tea and a gossip with a neighbour.

Huffpost Lifestyle think that its 100-year-old self might be a tinsy bit bored by this point, especially since women received limited intellectual stimulation.

"The 1870 Education Act had (theoretically) provided a free elementary education for all," says Newby.

"However, families of all classes usually prioritised education for boys. While their brothers were sent away to school, middle class girls might be taught decorative skills by a governess – needlework, music, water colour painting, a little French - skills to catch a husband"

"Working class girls and boys would have stayed on at school until age 13 at most, then gone out to work. There were few scholarships available and most families needed every penny from their children's wages, as a working man couldn't earn enough to support his whole family."

So if people weren't learning, having fun or bathing -- could you hope for a happy marriage?

"Like today, ordinary couples married later in their mid-to-late twenties, when they had saved up enough money to start their own household and the husband earned enough for his new wife to stop work," says Newby.

But, add the author, spinsterhood was undesirable as it would mean financial dependence on your parents for the rest of your life, and probably being used as a free child-minder and nurse by your family.

"Every year hundreds of unmarried women were shipped out on the 'Fishing Fleet' to India, where British men outnumbered women three to one and all but the plainest were snapped up."

Right: we're fine in 2012, thanks!