Queen Coal? Why should we remember Victorian mining women?
'Oppressively hard work'
This extract from the 1842 Report into Children's Employment (Mines) records what the Sub-Commissioner, J.C Symons saw and the women he spoke to in one coal mine:
The Sub-Commissioner states that “the instances of oppressively hard work presented themselves at collieries near Barnsley. The evidence of Elizabeth Day, and of Ann and Elizabeth Eggley, is deserving of especial notice, the more so because I believe both the elder of these witnesses to be respectable and credible, and both gave their evidence with much good feeling and propriety.
The work of Elizabeth Day is rendered more severe by her having to hurry part of the way up hill with loaded corves. The Eggleys are however doing the ordinary work of hurriers in their colliery. It is a large well-ventilated, and well-regulated one, but owing to the size of the corves, which weigh 12˝ cwt, it is work very far beyond the strength of females at any age, especially females of sixteen and eighteen years old.
After taking the evidence of the two Eggleys I saw them both at their work and hurried their corves, and also preferment the work they had to do at the bank-faces. I can not only corroborate their statements but have no hesitation in adding that were they galley slaves their work could not have been more oppressive, and I believe would not in all probability be so much so.
Elizabeth Eggley, who is not above fifteen, whilst topping the corves, lifted a coal which must have weighed at least a hundred pounds [...] This girl was working for her father who was standing by at the time.
Corroborate -to prove something
Corves - wagons used inside a mine to move coal
Credible - believable
Galley slave - badly treated slave forced to row, powering a ship
Oppressive - harsh or cruel
Rendered - made
Ventilated - to provide a flow of air through a place
Download the worksheet below to read the evidence the women gave for the report