Friday, October 19, 2018

Charles Masterman and the pit-brow lasses

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Helen Pidd had an article in Sunday's Observer on an exhibition at Bishop Auckland Museum that celebrates the role of women in British coal mining.

This put me in mind of my favourite Edwardian Liberal, Charles Masterman, as he was the minister responsible for taking the Coal Mines Act of 1911 through the Commons.

Masterman's wife Lucy wrote about this episode in her biography of him:
The Coal Mines Act went through with little trouble except for a struggle to keep pit-brow lasses their right to work. Masterman had made enquiries into the question when he had been to Lancashire ... and had also received a deputation of the lasses themselves, sturdy, strapping girls obviously in far better health than the majority of factory of shop girls; and was determined they should not go. 
He laid down the principle: that women should not be forbidden any type of work unless it was proved to be (1) unhealthy, (2) in a situation dangerous to morals, (3) of a degrading and degraded character, and that a Parliament in which women were not represented should be chary of excluding them from any work they wished to do.

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