In Roger Bagnall's Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History there is an interesting section which discusses the office archives of the village of Tebtunis, now in the Michigan collection. The group of registers of contracts is particularly interesting, since it documents the kinds of contracts that were registered in a given year, thereby affording opportunities for social and historical analysis. Bagnall draws attention to Deborah Hobson's study of the role of women in the economic life of Tebtunis. Hobson noticed that in more than half of the references to women the transactions had to do with marital property rights. Hobson concludes that women "do not seem to participate in the agricultural or commercial life of the village directly" (cited in Bagnall, Reading Papyri, 44). Their roles were restricted to the home as wives and daughters. Interestingly, though, there is a sudden increase in the contracts reflecting withdrawals of assets during two years in Egypt that are known to be a period of economic hardship due to the flooding of the Nile. Hobson was able to show that during this time contracts for wet-nurses, return of dowries, and loans borrowed by women are more abundant in the papyrological record, suggesting that women became sources of household revenue. Bagnall refers to these women as "reserve assets" and "holders of assets," whose work was considered a financial security in times of debt. This is a wonderful example of how the study of papyri can help us understand the economic life of ancient Egypt. In the case presented by the contract registers from Tebtunis, we learn that women, through various services, were responsible for mitigating the level of household debt when the Nile floods disrupted the agricultural industry.
For more general information on the Tebtunis papyri, visit Berkeley's Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, which includes all sorts of introductory and bibliographic information as well as a lot of very good images of the papyri.