This dissertation’s main aim is to explain why Dutch female labour force participation (FLFP) rates were lower than in neighbouring countries during the long-nineteenth century. I consider the following explanatory factors: economic change, social norms, and the opportunity costs of women’s labour. As such, this dissertation contributes to two strands of literature: (1) the rise of the ‘male breadwinner society’ in western Europe - a shift that entailed husbands working for wages, women becoming full time housewives, and children going to school - during the second half of the nineteenth century and (2) the development of living standards during industrialization. Based on new empirical evidence from a great variety of sources, I provide a level of detail on household labour allocation and living standards that has hitherto remained absent. My key finding is that the specific structure of the Dutch economy was the most important driver of the ‘Dutch divergence’ in FLFP rates and that different economic structures within the Netherlands were a crucial determinant of women’s labour allocation and hence the transition to a breadwinner-homemaker household.