The principal purpose of this thesis has been to analyse the importance of women´s waged work with handicrafts for the household economy in the Swedish countryside during a period of rapid industrialisation and growth. The point of departure for the analysis has been a theoretical and methodological frame of interpretation on three levels. The levels that have been studied are the national institutional level of society, the level of the local society and the household level. This thesis has shown that women’s ways of providing for themselves cannot be explained with reference to any one factor. The explanation for the gender division of labour must be seen as the result of the interplay of several different factors on different levels. By investigating how the conditions for making a living looked like on the three different levels, the thesis has shown that, together, factors on the national institutional and the local societal levels, as well as on the individual household level, affected women’s work and how it can be understood. The thesis has described how the ideal of the breadwinner has changed during the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society. By studying a traditional form of female wage work – handicrafts – during a period when women were not expected to be gainfully employed, the thesis has shown that this transition was a slow process that manifested itself differently on different levels and that the old agrarian gender order survived for a long time despite the fact that people’s means of making a living had changed in a fundamental way. Women’s handicraft work was a continuing feature during this transitional period.