The Tamar Bal Maidens, by Lynne Mayers, subtitled 'Women and girls at the mines of East Cornwall and West Devon'
Booklet published by Blaize Bailey Books in 2011, 26 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, smelters and clay works in the Tamar area, covering some twenty five parishes. This region can claim one of the longest written mining histories, with records of women at the 14th century lead smelters, and with still a few women working into the 20th century. The hey-day ot female employment, however, was the 19th century, when most were working at the copper mines. In addition, there were bal maidens dressing ore at the lead-silver, manganese and tin mines, as well as at the extensive brick works and clay pits. When the copper lodes began to fail, and the copper mines in the area diversified into arsenic production, bal maidens were still there dressing the very product that had previously been regarded as waste. The last bal maidens seem to have finally laid down their hammers, shovels, and barrows by about 1910. But that wasn't quite the end of the story...
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.