Costuming might be my hobby, but mining history is what I work with for a living, and at the moment I'm spending most of my workdays preparing a big exhibition about mining in the 16th-to late 18th century. One of the challenges in history is that women are so often neglected, eventhough we know that they have been part of history. Today me and a colleague sat down and went through De Re Metallica by Agricola, with the quest to find as many examples of women as possible, and other things but we definitely kept our eyes open for women. De Re Metallica was published in 1556 and was the book about mining and metallurgy in the 16th and 17th century, basically until the Enlightenment started to look at the subject with more modern scientific eyes. It's filled with wonderfully detailed woodcuts about all kinds of work pertaining to mining and metallurgy. When we started to go through the work properly we fond quite a few women in the woodcuts. Interestingly enough I think I found the most women, possibly because I'm simply used to looking for costumes and examples of clothing.
Here follows quite a few working women from the 16th century, and their clothes. All the images are from the Project Gutenberg e-book of De Re Metallica I've then just cropped the images to just show the women.
My favorite picture of all is also the final woodcut on page 591. The woman is quite in the middle of the woodcut and you can see her carrying a child in her arms. The dress has sleeverolls. She doesn't seem to be working, she could possibly carry something in her other hand. The rest of the picture shows a man sitting at a table in the direction she's heading to. Is it a wife coming with food or something to her husband?
Nonetheless this picture really shows that women, and children, were a natural part of even what's considered very traditional male working places. Sure most of the women that are seen are seen doing very simple things, mostly washing and carrying stuff, but they were there. They didn't just sit at home while their men were working. In poorer households it was necessary that all worked, a non-working wife was a luxury that no miner could afford.
So there you have it, examples of working women, and yes I am thinking about maybe recreating one of the woodcuts, we'll see.