Today, of course, is International Women’s Day and instead of indulging in a seasonal rant like last year, I decided to reflect on how lucky I am – how lucky we are, we women who choose to work with textiles. Instead of having to do so, that is.
Think on’t – for many centuries, we’d have had little or no choice. For many millennia, even. If we wanted fabric, we’d have had to produce it, going right back to working with basic cords. We’d have had to spin every single thread, from the ones used to knit a shawl for a baby to those being woven into sails for a ship. Everything. Oh, men would have been involved too, at some stages, inevitably, but we do know that the bulk of the textile work often fell upon women – ‘keep the maids at their spinning’.
So here, because I’m still coughing for Wales and have a head almost entirely full of menthol and eucalyptus, are some images of women working with textiles which have served to make me think on’t, as it were.
These images are by the early twentieth century American photographer Lewis Hine:
Let’s not forget that children were so useful, and girls were so much more reliable.
The smaller girls have to stand on boxes to allow them to work.
This child – from 1910 – is a little taller, but no matter. And no matter how attractive the photograph, it’s still not right. And it’s not in the past, of course. Just in the past – mostly – in the ‘developed’ world. Hrrumpf.
The production of fine knitted items on Shetland was not industrialised as such, but was just as oppressive – I went into this in some depth after I was in Shetland a couple of years ago, in a post called ‘knitting for tea‘ – salutary.
(Photograph courtesy Shetland Museum and Archives)
Hard work. You’ve got to keep at the knitting when you’re doing other things, or you don’t – essentially – eat.
And finally, just because I had an argument about voting (do it; people have died for the right to vote, I don’t care if nothing changes, just ****** vote, or maybe spoil your ballot paper because they do take note of those), and political action with a couple of women yesterday, note these two redoubtable women from the textile industry:
They were on a picket line during the huge US garment workers’ strike in 1910 (love the hat, by the way; no to donkey jackets; yes to big hats). Yo!