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The Coal Mines
Industrial Revolution


Women and children at first worked alongside men in the coal mines, although there were differences in jobs they did. Before 1842, there were no protection laws, nor limits for the age of child labor.


Hurriers were people that moved the coal from the face (where the coal was cut) to the horses -ways.

Horse-ways were the main passages where horses could be used for hauling. Sometimes they used a pulley system to wind up the trams.

A level is a tunnel into sloping ground, like a cave. The coal was mined without having to dig a shaft.


Teams of women were employed to use a windlass to lift coal and workers. Men refused to do such work.

Hauling a tub of coal by means of a rope and chain. The chain usually passed underneath the body between the legs.


Illustrations like these were used to solicit outrage against the use of women and children in mine work. Given that women engaged in heavy labor in agricultural work as well, why do you think mine work elicited particular concern?

What can these illustrations tell us about the level of technological development in this period? Why was human labor so necessary?

2) Testimonies from South Wales Mines

Six year old girl:
"I have been down six weeks and make 10 to 14 rakes a day; I carry a full 56 lbs. of coal in a wooden bucket. I work with sister Jesse and mother. It is dark the time we go."

Jane Peacock Watson.
"I have wrought in the bowels of the earth 33 years. I have been married 23 years and had nine children, six are alive and three died of typhus a few years since. Have had two dead born. Horse-work ruins the women; it crushes their haunches, bends their ankles and makes them old women at 40. "

Maria Gooder
"I hurry for a man with my sister Anne who is going 18. He is good to us. I don't like being in the pit. I am tired and afraid. I go at 4:30 after having porridge for breakfast. I start hurrying at 5. We have dinner at noon. We have dry bread and nothing else. There is water in the pit but we don't sup it. "

Mary and Rachell Enock, ages 11 and 12 years.
"We are door-keepers in the four foot level. We leave the house before six each morning and are in the level until seven o'clock and sometimes later. We get 2p a day and our light costs us 2 1/2 p. a week. Rachel was in a day school and she can read a little. She was run over by a tram a while ago and was home ill a long time, but she has got over it."

Isabel Wilson, 38 years old.
"I have been married 19 years and have had 10 bairns [children]:...My last child was born on Saturday morning, and I was at work on the Friday night... None of the children read, as the work is no regular..When I go below my lassie 10 years of age keeps house..."


What do you think coal was used for in this period? How crucial was it to the Industrial Revolution?

Generally, how many hours did these women and children work each day?

What health problems were generated by mine labor?

Name some ways this type of work affected family life?

Do women work in coal mines today?

[Source: Children Working Underground Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru National Museum of Wales, 1979.]

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