Real Lives

Women in metal manufactory

Far from being 'women's work' it was still very much work for women

The invaluable research of historian Ivy Pinchbeck in the 1920s enables us to see something about life for the women workers in metal manufacture. In the early days, wives would help their husbands around the forge - working the bellows, and such like. When the work became heavier and more industrialised, women continued to be employed.

This was particularly true in South Wales where there were few other related industries and women were often classified as 'labourers in the ironyards' which covered a multitude of jobs including preparing the ore for the furnace, raking out the ashes and breaking up limestone.

The work was generally considered to be hard but well paid with women at the Pennydarron Ironworks, earning up to 15 shillings a week. Pinchbeck records the case of a Mary Richard who was earning up to £3 a month at breaking limestone. Richard was relatively well off for a working woman, but admitted that she often 'worked too hard'.

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