is a photo of Mabel Bragger. It was taken between 1916 and 1918 we believe.
Note the broken window behind her. Note also the little boots...I wonder how
many times they were passed down. " Mabel Bragger was the wife of Alfred
Bragger who was a coalminer at Silverwood pit, the little girl I believe is
her daughter Caroline Furniss. Carolines father and Mabels first husband was
George Furniss who was Killed in France during the 1914-18 war. Caroline
took over raising the younger siblings when Mabel died age 39 in 1932 after
Courtesy Christine Nash
Mabel of course was one of the many women widowed at an early age by war,
and for these women survival was a battle indeed.
After the first world
war widows did receive a small war pension but extra income was needed, or
help from families and friends.
A handful of war widows
fared even worse when they were informed at the pension desk, that their
husbands had been shot for desertion and were not entitled to a pension. So
they not only had to face life with no pension but also live with the
disgrace. The sad reality was that most of the men shot for desertion in the
first World war had not deserted at all, they were suffering from shellshock
and simply staggered away from their line.
Many young women like Mabel did remarry, some of them married men who had
lost their wives and had children too.
When asked in later years " How on earth did you
manage to keep going in those days"? The simple reply from a woman would be
the above heading. Indeed there was not much help for a grieving Woman, and
they carried on looking after their children, found work, hiding their
sorrow, simply because they had little alternative. " Ya managed cos ya ad
It has to be said Ladies that the housewives of today have it comparatively
easy when you think of the modern appliances you are able to afford.
Now can you imagine trying to keep an household clean in an environment that
included not only the dust and grime of a very industrialized steel and coal
area, but every house had a coal fire that belched forth soot from out of
the chimney, not to mention the constant passing coal trains. Not forgetting
the times back drafts in the chimney filled the whole house with smoke and
Spray and wipe!!, forget that ! it did not exist back then, it was wash and
scrub often with carbolic soap.
Pre 1960 most women in the Thrybergh, Dalton, and Ravenfield area were still
using the old wash boiler, and the washing of clothes was all done by hand.
Firstly the clothes were placed in the boiler, washing powder was added, and
then the clothes were agitated by using a timber dolly. The dolly looked
rather like a stool on three legs, with a pole sticking through the centre
at the top, and at the top of the pole were two handles. So you emerged the
dolly in the boiler of clothes and started twisting. If the clothes were
really grimy you used the washing board often called the scrubbing board
which was an oblong timber frame containing a corrugated metal or glass
sheet upon which you rubbed the clothes. Once the clothes were clean you
then emptied the boiler and placed fresh water in there to rinse them, next
came the Mangle. Now if you think twisting the Dolly sounds like hard work,
the mangle was a muscle breaker. The Mangle was simply two rollers rotated
by an handle through which the clothes were squeezed.. The mangle had 4 -5
inch diameter wooden rollers. Many fingers were trapped and had to be
amputated. Sometimes the clothes were passed through the mangle a couple of
times, then the clothes were ready to hang out. Often us kids were called
upon to twist wet washing items, your Mother would twist one way and you the
opposite, this was another method of wringing clothes , sheets , towels etc.
Monday was the traditional day to do your washing and was called washday.
The item we liked as Kids was the old Posher which was a 12 - 14" copper
dome with small holes around it, attached to a wooden handle. This was used
to compress the clothes in the boiler to hopefully squeeze the dirt out. [
They made great ray guns when we played spacemen. ]
The Irons used were the old flat iron which were heated up on the side of
the old fireplace. Clothes especially shirt collars were often starched to
keep them without a wrinkle. Now add to this that before you started your
wash day you would have to get your kids to School, send the workers of the
family off to work with a packed lunch, and give everyone breakfast. At some
stage of the day you would clean up the breakfast dishes , go to the shops,
and of an afternoon get ready for the family to return home and also start
preparing the evening meal. If your husband was on shift work then there
would be a week where he would arrive home around two o clock in a afternoon
and expect a cooked dinner to be ready. Cleaning carpets and floors was a
hard task with no vacuum cleaners but it was done, I often recall Mother
down on her knees scrubbing the back step, front step, and the outside
toilet, using the old scrubbing brush and a bar of soap. Do you remember the
Christine Nash recalls My mother would scrub the outside steps and then use
what they called a donkey stone to make a white line at the end of each
step. She was very particular about it that it looked perfect or the
neighbours would talk if your front steps didnt look good!! I thought that
was really funny at the time.
My Mother like a lot of Women made her own bread, pastries, cakes, all of
which tasted a whole heap better than what we buy today. If we were lucky
enough to have Chicken for Dinner the left over carcass was used as a base
to make Chicken soup which would last a couple of days or more. In short a
Woman with a sizable family had very little rest time in any one particular
day. The Men back then very rarely helped out with housework and so often
the kids were given jobs to do.
some areas had a water supply then water was obtained from the Village Well
and carried in Buckets, in the early 20th century some areas in Rotherham
were still obtaining water from a well. In fact by the turn of the century
women were still working down the mines as in the case of this lady found on
the 1901 census Edith Allott age 40 born in Sheffield living in Ecclesfield
was working as a Labourer down a Coal Mine.
Emma Paget worked for the Fullertons at Thrybergh Hall as a servant for
which she she got one 1/2 day off a year, which was New Years day. Her
salary was 7/6d per year but of course she lived there and had food and
clothing. Around 1909 the wage for a Midwife was 7 shillings and sixpence a
week compared to 45 shillings a week paid to Coal Hewers.
It wasn't to long ago Women had their children born in the home and often
daughters who were old enough would assist at the birth of siblings.
Neighbouring women were often there to deliver the babies, and coped quite
well considering the lack of facilities that are available today.
The household budget was mostly managed by the women, and they sorted out
the paperwork involved with the household.
How these women found the time to visit friends and relatives, stop and have
a natter and gossip, and help others is a marvel in itself ,but they did
find that time.
When Women discussed things with each other, and it got to the part they
considered unfit for children's ears they would mouth the words. Now I used
to find this very funny and like a lot more children I learned to lip read
very well. I used to love any words starting with 't' because the ritual of
mouthing these words involved extending the tongue to such an extent, that
in my early observations I thought the women were having an Adams Apple
licking contest. A lot of the time some of the women for some reason could
not suppress the vocal chords, and a loud whisper came fourth. This of
course took all the fun out of guessing what was being discussed. During
this silent conversation a lot of head nodding and shaking was done, along
with some clucking noises plus plenty of tut tut's and the dreaded long
intake of breath which was a sure sign of something terrible. Sometimes the
vow of silence was broken after this long intake of breath by the immortal
words that conveys to the storyteller that they have indeed impressed the
listener. The immortal ' EEEE I SAY ''WHODA THOUGHT IT
Most Women were pretty handy with the old needle and thread, torn clothes
were repaired, not replaced, Jumpers , cardigans, Gloves, socks Balaclava's,
were more often than not home made. Many Women worked from home by taking in
Washing and Ironing, some had part time jobs in local shops, others made
clothing for the Miners, or made confectionary, all of which helped out with
the income of the family. When Potato picking time came around women would
often join their children out in the fields working for the local Farmers.
During the war a lot of Women worked on the land or in local factories
including the Munitions Factory at Maltby. Millicent Page of South Vale
Drive Thrybergh actually worked in the Fire Service during the second World
Shopping was carried by hand from the shop to the home, and you would see
Women and children trudging away from Fosters Shop laden with the weeks
There were a large number of women in the area who were quite ladylike and
were married to Office workers, local business owners, and were often to be
found in church groups and local societies. More often than not they were
very pleasant and always greeted everyone in a very courteous manner and
often tried to help those in need.
As the 20th century progressed the lot of the working man became much better
and after the second World War it was like a new beginning for the
womenfolk. By the late 1950's and early 1960's Washing machines, T/V'S, and
other electrical appliances were appearing in households. Suddenly Women
were finding more spare time for themselves and money to spend. The
housework was getting easier, women were starting to go out at night, some
with their husbands others in groups of friends. A new breed of women
appeared, no longer dominated by their husbands, buying something
fashionable in clothes now was not a thing to dream of , it was a reality
for the working class Women. The age of wearing curlers in your hair and an
apron around you all day was gone. If ever a women was neglectful of her
cleanliness, other women would say " Well there's no excuse for being dirty,
a bit of soap and water never cost much.'
Some women were as tough as the menfolk and were definitely not to be
tangled with, all were strongly protective of their children often resulting
in many an argument. Which of course provided entertainment for the
The other big strain for the wives of Miners was the ever present fear that
there would be an accident down the Mine, and the head of the household
would not return. In the time of strikes the women were than faced with the
daunting task of obtaining food for the family, fending off debt collectors,
often hiding with the kids on the floor, when the rent man or insurance man
would call, knowing there was no money to even pay your rent.
The area I grew up in had some wonderful womenfolk,
great characters , and this then was their lives in the not too distant
past, our Mothers and Grandmothers, they left behind a memory of proud,
thrifty, hardworking women with hearts of solid gold.
God Bless 'em one and all
Text Šopyright John Doxey with additional material by Nadia Simpson, and
Christine Nash, page proof read by Nadia Simpson
FOOTNOTE: on Out Takes and Bloopers
Having Nadia proof read the above was one of the smartest things I ever did,
Why? Did you say. Well the line above The age of wearing curlers in your
hair and an apron around you all day was gone. was not originally how I
wrote it. See, I was so into remembering what I had observed in my childhood
I had a thousand and one things running through my little brain, and I
wrote. The age of wearing Rolling Pins in your hair and an apron around you
all day was gone. Poor old Nadia nearly fell off her chair laughing when she
read that. When Nadia pointed it out to me I kept laughing because I kept on
having this vision of women walking round with twelve inch wooden Rolling
Pins in their hair, poking out from under huge headscarf's, saying " I can't
stop and talk, I've got a lot on me mind today"