Stories of glovers in Mrs Halliburton’s Troubles by Mrs Henry Wood
The concept of Worcester Woman (from wiki: “Worcester woman” is a political term used by polling companies in the United Kingdom. It profiles or describes a type of median voter, a working class woman in her 30s with two children who worries about quality of life issues and has little interest in politics) from a feminist standpoint is fascinating: anonymous and unassuming, but with the power to change a significant decision.
One hundred and fifty years earlier, it’s really interesting to discover that Worcester Woman had an enviable work-life balance, thanks to the structure of the glove industry.
Ellen (Mrs Henry) Wood was a novelist, born in Worcester in 1814. She wrote over 30 popular novels and was, in her time, as much a favourite as Charles Dickens.
Her Worcester upbringing becomes clear in her descriptions of the glove-making industry in Mrs Halliburton’s Troubles, published in 1862. The lifestyle of the gloveresses she puts down, albeit romanticised, shows a level of freedom that would be unheard of for working class women in the fields or factories:
HELSTONLEIGH abounded with glove manufactories. It is a trade that may be said to be a blessing to the localities where it is carried on, since it is one of the very few employments that furnish to the poor female population easy, clean, and profitable work at their own homes. The evils arising to women who go out to work in factories have been rehearsed over and over again ; and the chief evil—we will put others…
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