Queen Coal? Why Remember Women in Post-War Mining Communities
These extracts are from a history book called Pit Women: Coal Communities in the Early 20th Century, and from a sociological text book, Coal is Our Life. The academic authors have observed and interviewed members of the coal mining communities, and have interpreted the evidence to describe everyday life.
No perpetual duty was more crucial to any working-class householdís comfort and its standard of living than the wifeís skillful financial management. Only through this expertise could the family avoid the shame of debt and those ultimate indignities, resort to the poor law and the pauper funeral. But perhaps especially in coal communities, where piece-work payments varied from week to week and where the menís earnings could be interrupted by technical or safety problems at the pit . . . the wifeís continuing struggle to make ends meet was of paramount importance. This struggle was even more vital when periodical or permanent sickness or injury prevented the breadwinner from earning. [ Pit Women: Coal Communities in the Early 20th Century, p40]
Minerís Wives and Womenís Wages
In most mining families over our period, wives respected their husbands most if they were not only regular earners but also handed over most of their earnings to meet the needs of the household. This transference was sometimes the cause of marital tension and rows and was customarily settled in two ways: either the husband handed over all his wages (receiving back from his wife an agreed amount for pocket money) or he gave her a fixed allowance each week, keeping the remainder for his own use and often keeping his wife in ignorance of what he earned. Half-humorous stories abound in every mining village of the subterfuges used to do this. However, in all cases where long-term sickness, injury or unemployment supervened to reduce the family income drastically, such concealments were laid aside and (as in most other similarly affected working class homes) all allowances, benefits or compensation payments coming into the household were totally controlled by the wife. [ Pit Women: Coal Communities in the Early 20th Century, p40]
Look closely at the Coal News Home Page image. What tips did the writer get from her mother-in-law? Why was her mother-in-law 'an excellent manager'?
Download the worksheet on money (link below) to read further extracts about the financial arrangements of post-war mining households.
Find out about money matters for Victorian mining women