A Woman's Work
A woman's work is never done was a true saying if you were a miner's wife in the late nineteenth/early 20th century. My photo was taken at Beamish Museum today in one of the miner's cottages.
The lady is black leading the fireplace and grate - a job that was done once a week to protect the surface from deterioration and to improve it's appearance. The fire was kept on all year as it was the only source of heat and all cooking and boiling of water was done on it. Luckily, coal was free of charge as a perk (the only one) of a miner's job.
The wife would get up with her husband whatever time his shift started (this could be as early as 3.00 am) in order to provide him with a hot meal before he started work. When he returned from work he would need a bath - the water used would be heated on the fire and another hot meal was made.
The rest of her day would be taken up with looking after children, baking, shopping, making clothes and of course the washing - usually done in a poss tub in the back yard. Many houses did not have running water and any water used would need to be collected from a village tap.
My great grandma was a miner's wife and I definitely know she had a very hard life.