[History] Women in Welsh Coal Mining – by Norena Shopland (Nation Cymru – July 31, 2023)


When 19-year-old Ann Bowcot from Dowlais was interviewed for the 1842 Children’s Employment report, she told the investigators that when she started work at the mines she was so small she had to be carried on her father’s shoulders to work.

She was not alone. It was common to see men carrying small children in the dark hours before dawn to the mine, where they would descend and remain most of the day. Society was appalled, and demanded something be done. The 1833 Factory Act had restricted the employment of children but why, people were asking, had this Act not been applied to other industries such as mining – so the government ordered an investigation.

As investigators studied the children, they were equally horrified to find women working underground close to men, in the dark, wearing little due to the heat and crowded space, smoking, swearing, and behaving like men, so the report was expanded to include women. The subsequent 1842 Act banned boys under ten and all females from working underground.

The ban however, did not start to take effect for several decades because there were so few inspectors that employers simply ignored the laws but finally, women were moved to the pit brow where they would pull and push the trams of coal, often the weight of a small car, off the pit head, empty it, break up large chunks of coal, clean and pack it ready for sale.

For the rest of this article: https://nation.cymru/culture/women-in-welsh-coal-mining/