The St Austell Bal Maidens, by Lynne Mayers, subtitled 'Women and girls at the mines and Clay Works'
Booklet published by Blaize Bailey Books in 2011, 30 pages. Booklet - c.15cm by 22.5cm (N5867)
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 records the life and work of the women and girls who worked at the mines and clay works in the St Austell area, covering some ten parishes. The region has a mining history dating back to at least the 16th Century, but the hey-day of female employment was the 19th century, when most were working at the copper mines. It was at this time that women and girls also began to be employed at the clay works. The differences in working conditions and employment practices between these industries are described. Mining went into decline from the mid 19th Century, while mechanisation removed the need for much of the manual labour at the clay works, so that the days of the bal maiden were inevitably numbered. They had all but disappeared by the turn of the 19th century, but not quite. A final chapter tells the stories of individual mine women of the area, including those who were recruited for work during World War One and World war Two.
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.