1. Exquisite Tweets from @yvonneseale, @Ceridweb, @StablerTanya

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    Missing tweet: 1220341530638143490

  2. I'm seeing this tweet pop up a lot on my timeline & it's making me wince. Women were absolutely a large percentage of the labour force in textile production in medieval Europe, but this tweet (& lots of the replies to it) present a v. skewed take on their role.

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    In medieval England, a spinster was a woman who worked at spinning, not at weaving. (A woman who worked at weaving was a "Webster" while a "Baxter" was a baker; yes, there are matrilineal occupational surnames in English! Women have always worked.)

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    While medieval spinsters were commonly single women, a married woman could also be a spinster. The term only begins to acquire the current connotation of "never-married woman" around the 17th century.

    books.google.com/books?id=SPQTD…

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    Pre-industrial textile production was laborious. Many people worked many hours to make a length of cloth. Spinning (twisting clean, combed wool fibres into yarn) was usually woman's (group) work, while later stages of textile production were men's work.

    (BL Royal 16 G V f. 56)

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    If you've ever tried to use a drop spindle, let alone a spinning wheel, you'll know that this woman's work is skilled work. But just because work takes skill doesn't mean that it's socially valued (true then and now).

    (L: BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 147; R: BnF Français 874 f. 132v)

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    You need to be good at spinning for your yarn to be usable. But what did it mean for a spinster to be "financially independent"? The tweet I quote above frames this as an achievement, and some medieval women were successful entrepreneurs who became wealthy.

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    In Paris, women silk workers had their own guild, ran workshops & employed apprentices; London "silkwomen" were recognised for their expertise. However, they were still treated as second-class participants in the economic life of their communities.

    daily.jstor.org/the-silkwomen-…

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    Most women earned a lot less. Since unmarried spinsters were paid so poorly, they often lived communally and needed charity to make ends meet. "Independent", yes, but in the same way that someone trying to get by on minimum wage today is independent.

    books.google.com/books?id=ud_BA…

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    This was compounded by pay inequity. A male weaver in medieval Normandy earned 10d for weaving an ell (just over 1m) of cloth. All the women who prepped & spun the wool collectively earned 6d. It took 8-10x longer to spin yarn than to weave it into cloth.

    books.google.com/books?id=QThLA…

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

    It's possible to recognise all the ways in which women's work was an indispensable feature of past societies without conjuring up fictive, hidden Golden Ages for that work. Patriarchy is a system, not a conspiracy.

    (Morgan Library MS M.917)

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

  3. Interesting! Both weaving and baking were done by men too though - male weavers were quite common in Wales before the Industrial Revolution. I wonder whether it was because men were doing this job that opposition to the new factories was as strong as it was? (Luddites).

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    Ceridweb

    Helen Saunders

  4. Yes, of course. Weaver = m., webster = f.. Textile production were gendered, with women more likely to carry out lower paid earlier stages and men the better paid later stages. As textile production became industrialised & moved out of the home, women were marginalised further.

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    yvonneseale

    Yvonne Seale

  5. Tax records for 13th c. Paris list an average of only 7 wool spinners per year, all women. The small # of taxed wool spinners indicates that the vast majority of Paris’ wool spinners were either married, making them invisible to tax assessors, or simply too poor to pay the tax.

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    StablerTanya

    Tanya Stabler Miller