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industrial revolution


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The Industrial Revolution in part was fueled by the economic necessity of many women, single and married, to find waged work outside their home. Women mostly found jobs in domestic service, textile factories, and piece work shops. They also worked in the coal mines. For some, the Industrial Revolution provided independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living. For the majority, however, factory work in the early years of the 19th century resulted in a life of hardship.

The Plight of Women's Work in the Early Industrial Revolution in England and Wales

The following selections are testimonies from England and Wales collected by Parliamentary commissions who began to investigate the industrial employment of women and children in the early 1840s.







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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.


Testimonies from South Wales Mines

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Mary and Rachell


Peacock Watson

"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..."

Isabel Wilson

, 38 years old.


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. "


"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 2 pennies a day and our light costs us 2 1/2 pENNIES. 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."

Mary and Rachell Enock


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. "


Working conditions evolution



  • What do you think coal was used for in this period?

brush their teeth

power steam engines

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

13 hours a day

16 hours a day

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  • What health problems were generated by mine labor?


Chicken pox

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  • Name some ways this type of work affected family life?



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  • How did women's conditions evolve?

Wages and educational increase

Women's income are two times higher than the men's

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  • Working conditions were often unsanitary and the work dangerous. Education suffered because of the demands of work.

  • Home life suffered as women were faced with the double burden of factory work followed by domestic chores and child care.

  • Men assumed supervisory roles over women and received higher wages. Unsupervised young women away from home generated societal fears over their fate.

  • As a result of the need for wages in the growing cash economy, families became dependent on the wages of women and children.

  • There was some worker opposition to proposals that child and female labor should be abolished from certain jobs.


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