Doing Twa Weemens Work – April 1894

All semi-barbarous people make the women do the hardest work; the men reserve their strength for fighting. Even in this century, the Highland women carry the manure to the fields on their backs, dig the soil and carry home the produce while the men, when they are not fishing, or hunting or stealing, loaf about.

In a farm house in Scotland and one in England, not more than a hundred miles apart, we find the style of working very different. The Scotch guidwife works very much harder than her English sister.

Now in most Scotch byres I have seen, the milking is done entirely by women, the mistress herself leading the way and keeping the others up to the mark. Then it is also very trying for a milker is not of much use who cannot be depended upon night and morning. If the mistress goes a-visiting, she must be “hame to the milkin’”.

The propriety of this is so acknowledged that her hosts never ask her to stay. Perhaps when she has grown-up sons and daughters, and her sore battle is over, she can say, “I’m weel aff; there’s plenty without me;” but, from force of habit when she is at home, she takes her stool and her pail with the rest.

One, more ambitious to shine than the others, would put the vegetables in the broth, lock the door and go out herself for an hour or two leaving the field a quarter of an hour before the others to feed the pigs and have the broth on the table. Those who knew her say she was always running at her work, with her barefeet, even in winter.

She paid the penalty later in life, being deformed and stiff with rheumatics. One I know, who is now a bright cheery woman of sixty, has often told me that when a young wife with her first baby, a sucking infant, the lass went out to the fields and she was left with the cheese and all the housework. She says it required perfect health and a strong body. Even with these, the life was hard. I should think it was.

This entry was posted in Cumbria, Family, Farming, Feminism, Scotland and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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