Lodging house keeper tended to be older than dressmakers. The key requirement was some business capital in the form of a house, which was often only achieved at middle age groups. Renting out rooms provided a vital form of entrepreneurial income for women who otherwise might have struggled to support themselves and their families through waged labour.
It was an occupation typically undertaken by women who lived without a man in the household. It had the second highest rate of never-married women after the dressmakers, as well as some of the highest rates of being married with an absent spouse. These were more likely to female-headed households.
The term absent spouse was an ambiguous term. While in many cases it indicated a married woman whose husband was somewhere else on census night (such as military, visiting elsewhere), it also included single or separated women, perhaps with children, who stated ‘married’ as a mark of respectability. Young widows were also unusually common among lodging-house keepers.