Queen Coal? Why should we remember Victorian mining women?
Positive Responses to Women Working in Coal Mines
From early February to mid April 1843 frequent, often daily, petitions against female exclusions from mine working were presented to parliament. Supporters of women mine workers argued that both elderly dependents and young families relied on women to work, and raised questions about the economic repercussions for families of excluding women from mines.
Look at these newspaper headlines and extracts – who wanted women to stay working down mines? Why?
- ‘By far the greatest portion are driven out of employment and may be driven to seek a miserable existence by means still more objectionable than working in the mines under proper regulations’ (Bolton Free Press January 27 p184)
- ‘The noble and learned lord (Lord Brougham) also presented two petitions from owners of collieries against a bill for regulating the employment of children in collieries’ (Wakefield Journal and West Riding Herald Friday July 8 1842 p2)
- Ann Thomas, same age and work ‘finds the work very hard; two women always work the windlass below ground. We wind up 800 loads [a day]. Men do not like winding. It is too hard work for them’ (Royal Commission Report). Women were paid less than men for doing the same job and the evidence frequently records that men would not expect to do the work women did.
- ‘Keep them at home to look after their families, decrease the pressure on the labour market and there is then some chance of a high rate of wages being enforced.’ (Northern Star 28 Oct 1843).
- Objections to women in mining are ‘sickly sentimentality of drawing room presuming to regulate the world’ (Economist 28 Sept 1844, p 1253)
Download the worksheet
(link below) to examine an extract from Punch making fun of the motives behind campaigns to improve conditions down mines.
Read 'For women's roles during the 1984/85 Miners' Strike'