While I was at the Manchester Signing Event at Astley Green Colliery last weekend, I took the chance to visit the mining museum there. Running on a loop was a film made in the early 1900’s, which brought home to me how lucky us women are now.
The film showed a group of women working in the colliery’s yard in about 1912. Clad in scarves and heavy clothing from neck to ankle, the women looked cheerful as they pushed trucks of coal along railway-like tracks ready for tipping and eventual delivery, two women to each truck. The tracks are still visible today, as were one or two old trucks, and Sam and I took the chance to walk along the rusting ironwork when we returned for the evening gigs. I imagined the women I’d seen on the film pushing the trucks, and realised how physically strong they must have been compared to us women today.
Here we are with our washing machines, dishwashers, electric irons, vacuum cleaners, and … puny biceps (well, I have anyway!). The women of 1912 had none of these labour-saving devices. Household laundry took a whole day to do by hand, carpets and rugs had to be physically beaten to get the dust out, flat irons had to be heated on a coal-fired range, and crockery and cutlery were washed by hand in a big enamel sink. Hot water had to be carried to a tin bath in front of the fire. It was all hard, sweaty work, with no air-conditioning to help cool the hot flushes. The women were probably old at 40 and dead soon after, worn out from physical work and repeated childbearing.
This was the normal way of life then. How they would feel short-changed if they came back to visit 100 years later! How would they cope with the internet, Sky TV, MP3 players and driving a car, not to mention trying to deduce how to work all the labour-saving devices? It makes me wonder what I am going to be missing out on, which my great-great grandchildren will take for granted; a pill to stop ageing and all diseases perhaps? Ooh -er, the world will be packed with people like sardines in a tin, all living to 200+! Perhaps I’m living in the ‘good old days’ now?
What do you think?