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Women at work: Considerable numbers of women were employed in the countryside both on the land and in cottage industries.

Group of women with brooms

Around 199,000 female farm workers were employed during the agricultural peak of the mid-19th century. Many of them were employed on a yearly basis, whilst others worked in 'gangs', which often included children. Work was varied, and included such tasks as lifting potatoes, weeding, raking and planting, harvesting vegetables, stone picking and along certain coastal regions, the gathering of cockles. Farmers' wives would often take charge of the dairy and the feeding of poultry, whilst those married to small scale farmers might well, in addition to farm duties, work outside the farm in order to supplement the family's income. The image shows a group of women who were temporarily employed as street cleaners by Bladon Council during the 1st World War.

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Women at work



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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660