The North Coast Bal Maidens, by Lynne Mayers, subtitled 'Women and girls at the mines (Portreath to Padstow)'
Booklet published by Blaize Bailey Books in 2012, 32 pages. Booklet - c.15cm by 22.5cm (N5864)
A bal maiden is the term used to describe a female manual labourer working in the mining industries of Cornwall, and is taken from the Cornish language word for mine, which is ‘bal’. The term was first used in the early 1700’s, and at its peak it is thought tens of thousands of women and girls were working in the Cornish mining industry. With the decline in the Cornish mining industry, female labour in the industry also declined, and by the late 19th century the number of bal maidens had fallen to half its peak. By the outbreak of the First World War very few remained in employment, and in 1921 the last mine that employed bal maidens closed, bringing the tradition to an end.
From the rear side cover: This book gives glimpses into the life and work of the women and girls who worked at the mines on the north coast of Cornwall (between Portreath and Padstow). Female employment was widespread here, with the earliest accounts coming from the late 18th century copper mines. It continued through until the early 20th century, with the last bal maidens working at the tin mines in St Agnes. This was a significant mining area with complex mineralogy, so bal maidens dressed lead, silver, zinc, iron and clay, as well as copper and tin. In addition to describing their work, there is an assessment of the numbers of bal maidens employed, and an overview of women and girls from key mining families. There are also accounts of a six year-old bal maiden who lived to be one hundred years old, and a Portreath ore dresser who helped in the discovery of copper in Australia, as well as the tragic story of the bal maiden who died in a boiler explosion, at United Hills Mine.
The booklet is illustrated throughout with several small black and white photographs and drawings.
The condition of the booklet is generally excellent. The covers are clean and bright, the staple spine is intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound. There is a small price sticker on the rear side cover.