Women of the Workhouse, Part I – A suitable job for a woman?

Workhouse Tales

The lives of women have always been one of my primary research interests, so when my friends at Archif Menywod Cymru/Women’s Archive of Wales were asked to devise a Women’s History Walk in Swansea, I started thinking about who should be included.

Oliver_Twist_11

Mrs Corney wooed by Mr Bumble, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

There is no shortage of interesting and laudable women from Swansea’s history of course, but with the workhouse and the poor laws always at the forefront of my mind, I realised how many female employees and volunteers had worked in Swansea workhouse in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Female labour was the mainstay of workhouses across Britain and in many ways a career in the poor-law service was a reliable, if unglamorous choice for a working-class woman. Many middle-class women gave their time to visiting the more vulnerable of workhouse inmates, recommended improvements and often provided treats…

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