Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Working Women

It it sometimes assumed that women have only entered the work place relatively recently.

It was only aristocratic, rich women or those who conformed to a certain Victorian middle class respectabilty who did not work .

An exception was the talented portrait painter Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun.Her popularity as a fashionable artist  gave her a freedom to travel and socialise not usual among women in her class.

Elisabeth Vigee Le brun (self portrait)


  The women who made the lace for her clothing and who plaited the straw for her hat led a very different existance.Working from tiny cottages lacemakers were usually the wives and daughters of agricultural labourers.The money they earned contributed to the family income making the difference between a living wage and abject poverty.Working outside gave a better light .

Little girls began making lace in lacemaking schools from the age of four.It was a hard life. Get distracted and look away from the lacemaking pillow and your nose would be rubbed in the pins holding the pattern in place.As they grew older their eyesight was ruined and many contracted  tuberculosis from long winters working inside crowded, damp cottages



One advantage of being a lacemaker was that you needed smooth hands and were excused from labouring in the fields like these country girls.



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