Why ‘pit brow lasses’ were coal mining’s unsung heroines – by Helen Pidd (The Guardian – October 14, 2018)


It is thought of as the ultimate man’s world, a sooty-faced fraternity deep under ground. But it is a little-known fact that many women also worked in Britain’s coal mines, doing crucial jobs to keep the collieries in operation.

The role of “tip girls” or “pit brow lasses” in the coal industry has largely gone unnoticed in history books, with women portrayed as wives or mothers, sitting at home.

A new exhibition at the Mining Art Gallery in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, challenges this long-accepted view. Breaking Ground: Women of the Northern Coal Fields tells the stories of women in the 19th -century mining industry via paintings and archive material, proving they did far more than wash their husbands’ sooty overalls.

Until 1842, women worked underground, as did children as young as eight. Queen Victoria put an end to that following a disaster at Huskar Colliery in Silkstone Common, near Barnsley, in which 26 children were killed. Her inquiry resulted in the Coal Mines Act, banning women and under-18s from underground work.

The new law didn’t prevent women and girls from working on the surface, however, so they did – loading wagons, sorting coal on conveyor belts and hauling heavy tubs up from the pit face.

For the rest of this article: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/oct/14/pit-brow-lasses-coal-mining-unsung-heroines-bishop-auckland-museum