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Textile Workers
Industrial Revolution

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womeninworldhistory.com


1) Courtauld Silk Mill Workforce:

Samuel Courtauld built a silk mill in 1825 in Halstead, Essex (South East England).

Before the Industrial Revolution, Halstead was an agricultural community with a cottage industry producing woolen cloth. In Halstead, as elsewhere in England, unemployment among depressed farming households and former wool workers forced people to find work outside the home. Because their labor was cheap, women more than men were recruited into the textile factories that sprang up all over Britain in the 19th century. This is a chart of the Courtauld workforce in 1860. The wages are in British schillings.

Number

Weekly Wages

 MALES

1

1000 pounds per year

 Mill Manager (Also got 3 per cent of the profits)

26

15s-32s

 Overseers and clerks

6

17s-25s

 Mechanics and engine drivers

3

14s-21s

 Carpenters and blacksmiths

1

15s

 Lodgekeeper

16

14s-15s

 Power loom machinery attendants and steamers

18

10s-15s

 Mill machinery attendants and loom cleaners

5

5s-12s

 Spindle cleaners, bobbin stampers and packers, messengers, sweepers

-

7s-10s

 Watchmen

-

5s-10s

 Coachmen, grooms and van driver

38

2s-4s

 Winders

114

   Total Males

Number

Weekly Wages

 FEMALES

4

10s-11s

 Gauze examiners

4

9s-10s

 Female assistant overseers

16

7s-10s

 Warpers

9

7s-10s

 Twisters

4

6s-9s

 Wasters

589

5s-8s

 Weavers

2

6s-7s

 Plugwinders

83

4s-6s

 Drawers and doublers

188

2s-4s

 Winders

899

   Total Females

1013

   GRAND TOTAL WORK FORCE

QUESTIONS

Make a list of jobs only men did. A list of the jobs women did. Can you think of any reasons for this? Were women less capable than men of doing this work? (You might have to find out what some jobs were!)

What do you notice about the wages for men's jobs compared with the pay for the women's jobs?

What is the highest paying job? the lowest?

In what job do males and females receive the same pay?

In what job are the majority of men employed?

In what job are the majority of women?

What is the approximate ratio of male workers to female workers?

Think about the pattern of the employment at the factory of a man and of a woman. Who might be able to work their way up the ladder? Who will most likely end up in a "dead end" job? What factors might have contributed to this pattern of lifetime job difference? What implications might this have on the status and power of women within the community? Within the family?

In factories that mainly employ women today, can you find out what percentage of men or women hold the best paying jobs?

[Source: For Courtland silk factory wages: Carol Adams, Paula Bartley, Judy Lown, Cathy Loxton, Under Control: Life in a nineteenth-century Silk Factory, Cambridge University Press.]


2) Evidence of Textile Workers in Wilson's Mill, Nottingham:

Hannah Goode: "I work at Mr. Wilson's mill. I think the youngest child is about 7. I daresay there are 20 under 9 years. It is about half past five by our clock at home when we go in....We come out at seven by the mill. We never stop to take our meals, except at dinner.

William Crookes is overlooker in our room. He is cross-tempered sometimes. He does not beat me; he beats the little children if they do not do their work right....I have sometimes seen the little children drop asleep or so, but not lately. If they are catched asleep they get the strap. They are always very tired at night....I can read a little; I can't write. I used to go to school before I went to the mill; I have since I am sixteen."

Mrs. Smith: "I have three children working in Wilson's mill; one 11, one 13, and the other 14. They work regular hours there. We don't complain. If they go to drop the hours, I don't know what poor people will do. We have hard work to live as it is. ...My husband is of the same mind about it...last summer my husband was 6 weeks ill; we pledged almost all our things to live; the things are not all out of pawn yet. ...We complain of nothing but short wages...My children have been in the mill three years. I have no complaint to make of their being beaten...I would rather they were beaten than fined."

[Source; Factory Inquiry Commission, Great Britain, Parliamentary Papers, 1833. Found in Hellerstein, Hume & Offen, Victorian Women: A Documentary Accounts of Women's Lives in Nineteenth-Century England, France and the United States, Stanford University Press]

 

QUESTIONS

What do you think happened to younger children when the family was away at work in mills?

What might be different about work done at home compared to work in the factory?

Why did some workers oppose the imposition of laws restricting women and children's work?

Today women are the majority of workers in textile and electronics industries around the world. What reasons do you think are given for employing mainly women? Does the problem of women's work being a "dead end" job exist in these plants too?


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