Unit women and children in victorian farming



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UNIT 8. WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN VICTORIAN FARMING

During the nineteenth century, women and children also worked in agriculture. They provided cheap labour for the farmer. The table shows the sort of work undertaken by women and children around the farm:



Source 1




Month

Work


January

Sorting potatoes in fine weather, for women and big boys and girls, generally not under 12 years old.

February

Sorting potatoes in fine weather, for women and big boys and girls, generally not under 12 years old.

March

Sorting potatoes in fine weather, for women and big boys and girls, generally not under 12 years old.

Picking twitch and setting potatoes for women and children over 8 years old.



April

Weeding corn and potatoes.

May

Weeding corn and potatoes.

June

Weeding corn and potatoes.

July

Weeding corn and potatoes.

August

Corn harvest.

September

Corn harvest.

October

Potato harvest for women and children.

November

Potato harvest for women and children.

Sorting potatoes for women and big boys and girls, generally not under 12 years old.



December

Sorting potatoes for women and big boys and girls, generally not under 12 years old.

Women and children were often involved in tedious and backbreaking tasks, such as clearing the ground of stones and weeds, spreading manure, hoeing turnips, and lifting potatoes. Their work was arduous and they laboured in bitter winds, snow showers and rainstorms, often spending long days in the fields, half frozen in wet clothes. At other times of the year, young boys were employed to help the carter or ploughman, or to serve as mobile scarecrows in the newly sown fields.


Except at haymaking and the corn harvest, when they followed the men, raking up the hay and binding and stooking the cut corn, women and children worked in small groups, usually a mother and her children working together.
The wages paid to women were about half the amount paid to the men, and varied with the type of work done. More was paid for harvest work than for taking up potatoes, and less was paid for weeding, planting potatoes and sorting potatoes. Children were paid even less, often just 1d or 2d per day. Even so, the money earned by women and children made an important contribution to the family income, especially when the men’s wages were so low. When Queen Victoria came to the throne, the average weekly wage for a farmworker was about 13s. This could be increased to around £1 if the woman and her children also worked in the fields.
At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign many women and children were employed in agriculture. By the end of the nineteenth century, fewer were working on the land. This was because of:




  • Improvements in men’s wages.




  • The introduction of compulsory education for children and the raising of the school-leaving age after the passing of the 1870 Education Act. Under this Act children over the age of 12 years were permitted to attend school for part of the day and go to work for the rest of it. This continued until 1918, when the school-leaving age was also raised to 14 years. Even so, many children still truanted to help on the farms at busy times.



Source 2

This source is taken from a novel by Thomas Hardy called Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which was published in 1891. It gives an account of women working on a farm.


The swede-field in which she and her companion were set hacking was a stretch of a hundred odd acres … The upper half of each turnip had been eaten off by the live-stock, and it was the business of the two women to grub up the lower or earthy half of the root with a hooked fork called a hacker, that it might be eaten also. Each leaf of the vegetable having already been consumed, the whole field was in colour a desolate drab; it was a complexion without features, as if a face, from chin to brow, should be only an expanse of skin. The sky wore, in another colour, the same likeness; a white vacuity of countenance with the lineaments gone. So, these two upper and nether visages confronted each other all day long, the white face looking down on the brown face, and the brown face looking up at the white face, without anything standing between them but the two girls crawling over the surface of the former like flies.
Nobody came near them, and their movements showed a mechanical regularity; their forms standing enshrouded in Hessian ‘wroppers’ – sleeved brown pinafores, tied behind to the bottom, to keep their gowns from blowing about – scant skirts revealing boots that reached high up the ankles, and yellow sheepskin gloves with gauntlets. The pensive character which the curtained hood lent to their bent heads would have reminded the observer of some early Italian conception of the two Marys.
They worked on hour after hour, unconscious of the forlorn aspect they bore in the landscape, not thinking of the justice or injustice of their lot … In the afternoon the rain came on again, and Marian said they need not work any more. But if they did not work they would not be paid; so they worked on. It was so high a situation, this field, that the rain had no occasion to fall, but raced along horizontally upon the yelling wind, sticking into them like glass splinters till they were wet through. Tess had not known till now what was really meant by that. There are degrees of dampness, and a very little is called being wet through in common talk. But to stand working slowly in a field, and feel the creep of rain-water, first in legs and shoulders, then on hips and head, then at back, front, and sides, and yet to work on till the leaden light diminishes and marks that the sun is down, demands a distinct modicum of stoicism, even of valour.


A young girl working in a Victorian harvest field

KEYWORDS


WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN VICTORIAN FARMING
Cheap labour

scarecrow


truancy



women

weeding




binding

children

hoeing

school

low wages


long hours

harvest


1870 Education Act

Stone clearing


potatoes

Spreading manure


Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………

Women and children in Victorian farming



Questions I want to ask




Answers

Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Write down all the facts you known about women in Victorian farming

Name ………………………………


Date ………………………………..
Write down all the facts you know about children in Victorian farming

Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Women and children in Victorian farming

weeding


backbreaking

women

fields

stooking

labour
Education

compulsory

children

hoeing

Victoria’s


wages

sown

scare

truant

In Queen _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ reign _ _ _ _ _ and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ worked on farms, especially at busy times. Farmers often used women and children as cheap _ _ _ _ _ _. They were paid very low _ _ _ _ _. Children would often play _ _ _ _ _ _ from school to work on the land. Women and children did _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ tasks, such as _ _ _ _ _ _ and _ _ _ _ _ _ _, binding and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _. Farmers used children to _ _ _ _ _ birds away from newly _ _ _ _ fields. It was made _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ for children to go to school after the passing of the 1870 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Act, but this did not stop many of them continuing to work in the _ _ _ _ _ _.

Name …………………………..
Date ……………………………
Study the picture

The girl is wearing

The other things in the picture are


What sort of person do you think this is?


Why do you think this?


Name ……………………………
Date …………………………….
Make a glossary of your keywords on women and children in Victorian farming



KEYWORD



MEANING
























































Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Women and children in Victorian farming

At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign many women and children worked on English farms. They needed to work on the land because men’s wages were so low. Much labour was also needed at busy times of the year. By the end of her reign there were fewer women and children working in agriculture. This was because of:





  1. The invention of



  1. Improvements in



  1. Compulsory

Name …………………………..
Date ……………………………

An interview with a child farmworker



Questions and answers

Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Write a letter to a friend describing your work in the fields

Dear
I am working on Mr Jordan’s


I have been
Then I was told to
The work is
The weather has been
Finally,

Yours

Name …………………………..
Date ……………………………
Women and children in Victorian farming: Source 2

Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Women and children in Victorian farming: Source 2

Name …………………………..


Date ……………………………
Women and children in Victorian farming: Source 2







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