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Pit Lasses

Women have long been recognised as the backbone of coalmining communities, supporting their men. Less well known is the role which they played as the industry developed, working underground or at the pit head. The year 2012 is the 170th anniversary of the publication of the Report of the Second Children's Employment Commission. The report caused public outrage in May 1842, revealing that halfdressed women worked underground alongside naked men. Three months later, to protect them from moral corruption, females were banned from working underground. The Commission's report has been neglected as a historical source with the same few quotations widely used to illustrate the same headline points. And yet, across the country, around 350 women and girls described their lives and work. Together, this report and the 1841 census, produce a detailed and surprising picture of a female miner at work, at home and in her community. After 1842 females were still allowed to work above ground. Following a painful transition in the mid-1840s when some former female miners suffered severe hardship women forged a new role at pit heads in Lancashire and Scotland, and then fought to retain it against opposition from many men.This book examines the social, economic and political factors affecting nineteenth-century female coalminers, drawing out the largely untapped evidence within contemporary sources and challenging long-standing myths. It contains what may be the first identified photograph of a female miner who gave evidence in 1842 and reveals the future lives of some of those who gave evidence to the Royal Commission.
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Two hundred years ago, the discovery that women worked half naked, underground shocked the nation. Within a few months, women were banned from working underground - yet the story of their role in developing the coal industry is little known. Women were responsible for carrying the coal along the tunnels, winching it out of the mine and then grading it. Girls as young as 6 were employed to sit in the dark opening trap doors to allow people to pass by. Despite the unpleasantness of their work, the exhaustion and physical problems it caused; many of the girls and young women preferred it to working in service or in the factories. It offered them greater independence and the wages were higher. This is a fascinating story. Denise Bates has used the evidence these women provided to the Children's Employment commissioners to create a book highlighting their lives, social backgrounds and the role they played in developing the coal industry. Definitely well worth reading. - Monsters and Critics Wives of miners are well-known for being the backbone of mining communities, but did you know women in the past worked down the pits too? Denise bates unearths the stories of 19th-century women miners, setting the records straight. - Family Tree Magazine Women have long been recognised as the backbone of coalmining communities but less well known is the role they played as the industry developed, working underground. In 1842 a report revealed that in some mines half-dressed women worked alogside naked men, resulting in a ban of women working underground. Bates examines the life of the female miner both at work and away from it, drawing on largely untapped evidence and challenging received wisdom's. 8/10 - Lancashire Evening Post

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