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War, gender, and industrial innovation: recruiting women weavers in early nineteenth-century Ireland.

Much has been written about the participation of women in war production during the twentieth-century but virtually nothing about women engaged in producing wa materiel during the Napoleonic war.(1) When the treaty of Amiens failed to secure a lasting peace in 1802, Britain geared up for what turned out to be twelve years of continuous warfare. Demands for vital war materiel such as clot for uniforms and canvas for sails increased just as men were withdrawn from the work force to serve in the army and navy. The demand for outfitting armies and ships was only one dimension of the increased market demand for cotton, woolen and linen textiles. War disrupted normal trade patterns, and presented British and Irish textile producers with expanded commercial opportunities to increase their market share in the Caribbean; continental weavers (French and German) normally supplied major sectors of this market. Linen-making in Ireland was sex-linked; traditionally, women spun and men wove. The withdrawal of men from the weaving work force for armed service, consequently, created a shortfall in the number of weavers available to maintain current production levels, let alon to supply expanding markets. Wartime, then, brought conditions conducive to change in the Irish linen industry, both in the composition of its gendered wor force, and in the application of new technologies to spinning flax and weaving linen.

This paper will analyze the initiatives of innovative linen merchants (drapers and bleachers) to meet new exigencies created by the Napoleonic wars. As entrepreneurs, they were motivated to protect their current share of the world linen market, at least, and, at best, to increase their profits from the new opportunities. To maintain or increase their market share, they would have to keep their competitive edge. They had to protect their secure supply of home-grown flax and to maintain an adequate work force of spinners and weavers under trying conditions. An important part of their strategy after 1804 was to recruit Ulster women in Counties Down, Tyrone and Armagh to weave commercial linen. Besides a positive climate for labor substitution, commercial expansion encouraged industrial leaders to tinker with prevailing notions of work and gender--to break the link of man to the loom and woman to the spinning wheel. This paper explores the recruitment of women weavers during the Napoleonic war in order to assess its economic and social impact. What was the outcome of this innovation? Were women weavers a temporary accommodation to emergency conditions, or did they become a permanent feature of the postwar linen industry?(2) Did this industrial innovation have long-term effects on women's work, gender, and the domestic mode of production?

I argue that war conditions presented Irish entrepreneurs with a golden opportunity to snap the link between gender and commercial linen weaving; snapping that link, in turn, prepared the way for snapping the link between farming and weaving, the bi-occupations of rural Ulster households. War-time innovations in the linen industry, subsequently, turned independent farmer-weavers into rural proletarian weavers. The industrialists succeeded because their innovations did not mount a frontal attack on the tuff of Ulster' independent farmer-weaver households, namely, domestic industry and the public linen markets. Instead, they developed a complementary side of the industry to meet heightened wartime demand. As the letters of notable linen merchants and bleachers, and the reports of the Irish Linen Board will show, the innovators mounted a concerted effort to recruit women to weave linen. Withdrawal of these workers from spinning was to be offset by mechanizing flax spinning, at least the coarse grades of yarn. Weaving offered women a more remunerative alternativ occupation in wartime. Women weavers, as we will see, had ramifications for the peace as well.

While women offered industrialists an alternative labor supply of weavers, sufficient raw material had to be secured as well. Raw material for the new flax-spinning mills became a real problem early in the Napoleonic wars. Though cottons challenged linens as cheap, serviceable clothing by the turn of the nineteenth century, cotton substitutes for strategic war materiel, namely canvas, duck and sailcloth, did not exist until well after the Napoleonic war.(3) The expanding war machine needed linen goods as the number of British ships doubled from 425 to 900 ships, and navy personnel rose 800 percent.(4) At least 300,000 soldiers carried knapsacks at home and abroad.(5) Consequently, flax for these manufactures was in high demand from 1800-1815. Handloom weavers used coarse linen yarn to make canvas, duck and sailcloth; weaving coarse yarn went quickly. Early in the war coarse yarn continued to be hand spun, but sustained war-time demand for this yarn only increased efforts, already underway, to mechanize flax spinning. Before 1810 flax mills in England, Scotland and Ireland were using the dry-spinning process to produce quantities of coarse linen yarn fit for war materiel.(6) (The process for the machine spinning of medium and fine linen yams was developed several decades later.) Mechanized flax-spinning only exacerbated the demand for raw flax.

English and Scottish linen industries were built on substantial imports of flax from the Baltic. Though British hand spinners spun home-grown flax, it constituted only a small part of the linen yarn used by British linen weavers. England and Scotland had to import large quantities of flax and linen yarn from Ireland and the Baltic.(7) While British linen manufacturers became increasingl reliant on foreign raw material, the Irish linen industry chose to become self-reliant. It adopted a two-pronged strategy in the last quarter of the eighteenth century: first, to promote extensive flax-growing; second, to increase linen cloth exports by diverting Irish yarn from the export market to Irish weavers.

Direct action by Irish weavers played no small part in shaping this strategy. I 1775, an observer reported that "it was within the knowledge of every Gentleman and manufacturer that the Weavers see the Linen yarn exported from the Several Seaports with great reluctance."(8) To prove the point he cited a case in which weavers prevented the export of linen yarn by shooting at a merchant engaged in this activity. The industrial strategy succeeded. Irish imports of foreign flax became very small, principally from France for the manufacture of exceptionally fine linens. Irish yarn exports decreased dramatically and linen cloth exports rose. Figure 1 identifies the dramatic drop in yarn exports just before 1790.(9

When Napoleon implemented the "Continental System" attempting to isolate the British Isles from the continent, Britain was cut off from its usual Baltic fla suppliers which jeopardized war production.(10) Ireland was a close and secure source of flax. Consequently, the demand for Irish flax increased dramatically.(11) Flax prices rose by 50 percent immediately, and flax speculators appeared in the marketplace.(12) Although Ireland had been part of the United Kingdom since January 1, 1801, the unification process had not yet joined the economies of the two islands. Ad valorem duties protected each island's domestic market from the other. But linen cloth and flax were imported into Britain without duty. Irish linen manufacturers, therefore, had to compete with their British counterparts and, consequently, moved decisively to take advantage of the high demand for war goods. They expected to capitalize on thei special advantage, namely, a domestic supply of flax. British manufacturers would have been content to have Ireland provide yarn and flax for their own factories, but Irish manufacturers and bleachers were not content to take a bac seat to their British counterparts; for decades they had resisted being made a colonial supplier of raw material.

Irish entrepreneurs were knowledgeable about technological breakthroughs in spinning machinery for worsted and linen yarns and had started to adapt the technology to their own machine-building.(13) They read the signs well and lobbied the Irish Linen Board (a state-supported funding board) to subsidize their private efforts to protect and expand what was commonly called the nation's staple industry. Left to themselves the Irish linen manufacturers and bleachers had a golden opportunity. But the opportunity had its underside. The industrial innovators would have to create a niche for mechanized flax-spinning along side the traditional linen industry, sharing with it the flax supply and the labor supply. It would have been counterproductive to weaken the traditiona mode of production that contributed the lion's share of linens to the export market at a time when opportunities for it, too, were expanding. Since many of the innovators made their money buying and selling linen produced by farmer-weavers, it made no sense at this juncture to interfere with it. A look at the traditional mode of production highlights the dilemma of the industrial innovators.

From the mid-eighteenth century commercial linen-making in Ireland expanded dramatically and was reflected in the growth of linen exports. Linen exports in the early 1750s were 10 million yards annually; by 1800, they had risen to between 35 and 40 million yards where they fluctuated during the course of the Napoleonic wars, and afterwards, took off again. Growth up to 1800 did not reflect major technological breakthroughs in the manufacture of linen cloth. Th adoption of sulfuric acid (vitriol) in the whitening process did permit bleachers to whiten and finish more cloth, but linen-making itself remained unmechanized. In the absence of machines, the only way to increase linen output was to increase the number of production units and/or the number of workers in those units. The predominant production unit was the farmer-weaver household. Composed of a farmer, his wife and children, and perhaps a servant or two, the farmer-weaver household utilized its labor force to maximize its productive capacity: it farmed for subsistence as well as for the local market and made linen to be sold in local regulated markets for export. Everyone in the household was involved in planting, harvesting and processing flax. Traditionally, the household's women spun the flax into linen yarn and the men wove it into cloth. Since it took four spinners to keep one weaver in yarn, the functions of spinning and weaving were traditionally sex-linked. Spinning was strictly "women's work."(14)

Since a large proportion of the Irish flax supply was grown by and manufactured in farmer-weaver households, it was secure and could not serve the needs of the new flax-spinning mills in Ireland and Britain.(15) To supply the spinning mills, innovators had to promote the cultivation of flax as a marketable agricultural commodity much like grain and hay. Ulster Linen Inspector Charles Duffin thought that commercial flax farming was a mixed blessing. In 1809 he reported the presence of speculators in the market and estimated that the flax supply could not keep up with growing demands.(16) " ... There is in the hands of speculators in this kingdom sufficient flax to employ the spinners to July next, if not longer," he estimated, "but the price demanded, the spinners canno purchase."(17) He advised planting more flax.(18)

Besides the flax supply, industrial innovators had a parallel challenge with th labor supply. Competition for labor between farming and linen-making heightened as wartime demand rose for both agricultural and industrial goods. To meet growing demands, farmer-weaver households intensified the traditional mode of production. Just as these households used their own flax and, therefore, could not supply the new spinning mills with raw material, so they could not supply the innovators' need for laborers. Who, then, were available to weave up mill-spun yarn? This is unexplored terrain and hence open to informed speculation.

Recruitment to the army and navy probably disrupted the family economy of some traditional households.(19) In search of alternative employment for the war's duration, members of these disrupted households probably provided one source of labor. The proportion of Irishmen in the various armies (home and the line) suggests the scale of disruption. Ireland had always provided a high proportion of the soldiers for the British infantry.(20) There were 13 Irish battalions almost wholly recruited from Ireland; in addition, Irishmen also provided a large and growing proportion of the strength in English battalions: in 1809, th Irish comprised 34 percent of the ranks of W. Middlesex (57th); in 1811, 37 percent of the ranks of the Worcestershire (29); in the Scottish regiments Irishmen increased from 3 to 6 percent, displacing English soldiers.(21) Though no clear figures indicate how many of these Irish recruits were weavers or potential weavers, figures for the militia are suggestive. In 1802, the Linen Board found that over 3,000 weavers, mostly Ulstermen, served in 17 different regiments of the militia. Young Irishmen joined the armed services because recruiters offered generous bounties which even after deductions for outfitting netted over [pounds]10.(22) A soldier's wage was competitive with the earnings an Irishman could make as a laborer or a weaver of coarse linens.(23)

Women in traditional households disrupted increasingly by the withdrawal of brothers or husbands for the front, then, probably provided a ready pool of underutilized workers for the industrial innovators. A second possible source were women in bi-occupational households that decided to use their labor to specialize in food production. Women in these households, released from spinnin for resident weavers, would be available to weave for putters-out. How were women recruited? In what context was the proposition framed?

When war resumed in 1803, William Pike, a substantial County Tyrone bleacher, linked the future of Irish coarse linen trade with increasing the productivity of Irish weavers. "If something is not done", he predicted, "our coarse trade may continue to decline in proportion to the great advances made by England and Scotland in this line where machinery is advantageously used for spinning coars linen yarn."(24) To meet British producers on an equal footing in the American markets, Pike proposed a three-point plan: erect dry-spinning mills to produce coarse linen yarn; introduce the fly shuttle(25) to Irish looms, thereby doubling the volume of cloth produced; and draft young women to weave.

Pike argued that the plan addressed moral as well as industrial concerns. Increasing productivity and placing women in a more remunerative occupation tha spinning was a way to raise the "poor" from poverty and its habits. A weaver with the fly shuttle would double his daily earnings and a daughter who wove would earn three times more than she did spinning.(26) From Pike's perspective the plan would not disrupt the domestic economy because female weavers would work the new looms at home. To implement the plan Pike asked the Linen Board to provide seed money for 100 to 200 slays and fly shuttles.(27) Once traditional weavers (males) saw the benefits of this modest technological change, Pike argued, they would adopt the fly shuttle and increase their productivity. Needless to say, change was not that simple or straightforward.

Following Pike's initiative, Ulster bleachers and linen drapers adopted a direc approach to changing the mode of production at the household level. Entrepreneurs who agreed that the best way to increase the supply of cheap linens was through two change agents--the fly shuttle and female weavers--met a Dungannon in June, 1805. The assembly designed a plan with two directions. The first focussed on the state-supported Linen Board. A large portion of the Board's annual budget, underwritten by a parliamentary grant, was spent on providing linen-making apparatus to worthy recipients. Commissioning fly shuttles for the Board's looms could promote the use of this technology by all who received these looms. Since the Linen Board often distributed free reels, wheels and looms through landlords and entrepreneurs, the assembly adopted an affirmative action stance: any looms granted to the committee by the Linen Boar would be distributed to females only. The second direction of the plan tapped the private sector. To reward "such spirited Females, as have the Country's Goo and their own Emolument so much at Heart as to engage in the Art of Weaving,"(28) the committee asked landlords and the gentry to make private subscriptions to a female weavers' fund that would be used to provide money incentives to female weavers. Constituting itself the Dungannon Association, th assembled entrepreneurs appointed a treasurer to raise money for premiums (incentives) and chose a standing committee that would meet monthly to evaluate the progress of the plan and to grant the money incentives.(29) William Pike wa a member of the standing committee.

Actions by the Dungannon Association and the Linen Board in the following eighteen months demonstrate that they increasingly cast female weavers as primary change agents. The campaign to have all weavers use fly shuttles concentrated on the new workers females. John Foster, the former Speaker of the Irish House of Commons and long-term trustee of Linen Board, proposed that any female who wove should receive fly shuttles gratis together with porters lamps. Also, the girl in each parish who wove the greatest quantity of linen in one year should receive a free loom. He quipped, "We might add a spinning wheel and get her a husband by the little fortune of a loom and wheel & her new industry."(30) The Linen Board did better. It offered a free loom to every female who wove 200 yards of linen or more in the year ending January 1, 1806.(31) The free looms, of course, came with fly slays(32) and fly shuttles. The Linen Board grant was reenforced by a monetary incentive offered by the Dungannon committee. Every new female weaver received 16s/3d after making her first 200 yards of linen.(33) Unless females continued to weave after receiving these premiums, however, the expense of free looms and money prizes would have little real impact on the industry. Once the process of change was in motion, then, additional steps had to be taken to assure gains and guide the process. I would not be a hands off operation like traditional domestic industry where the draper dealt with the weaver at the public linen market.

Traditionally, the linen draper confined his activity to the marketing end of the industry, that is, to buying linen cloth on his own account or for a bleacher. The campaign to draft female weavers blurred the sharp line between linen production and marketing because some drapers accepted the role of overseer, and intruded directly into the production of cloth. Besides facilitating the distribution of sound looms, the Dungannon committee commissioned members to enter the homes of female weavers. Recipients of free looms were to expect at least one unannounced visit each year to determine how many pieces each weaver made with the fly shuttle. If the inspector found "obstinacy in attention or idleness be preserved in", he had the discretion "to remove the loom."(34)

The plan to follow-up was not an idle threat. The committee report of October, 1806, indicates that weavers had been visited several times in the previous six months: "some of our best and most expert female weavers who had made considerable progress in the use of fly slays have laid aside the use of the fl slays altogether."(35) Apparently, glitches in the new technology caused women weavers to abandon the new technology (fly slays) when it interfered with their productivity. The inspections also led the committee to rethink its premiums. The first scheme granted a flat sum to every new female weaver. In rushing to weave her first four double pieces to claim the money prize, she usually wove the coarsest grade (700 count).(36) To redirect production, the committee adopted a scheme of differentiated rewards, reserving the greatest prize to those who wove cloth of 1000 count and over.(37)

If the labor supply for linen weaving had contracted because weavers went to wa and if weaving offered higher wages to women, why did the innovators have to offer further incentives to recruit women? At treble the wage of hand spinning and double the wage of agricultural work,(38) 10d a day should have been enough incentive. The innovators believed time was of the essence. They could not wait until women found their way into the labor pool of weavers. Increased supplies of coarse yarn from mechanical spinning would create greater demand for weavers at a time when the labor supply was contracting in the face of increasing deman from the agricultural sector.(39) This would force up the price of labor, and, consequently, the cost of their canvas and sailcloth. Since the price of flax represented 80 percent of production costs in Britain,(40) Ireland's ready supply of flax gave it a great competitive edge that the innovators did not wan offset by an increase in the cost of labor. In 1806 a piece of canvas on the British market sold for 28s 6d; three years later it had peaked at 44s 6d a piece. Consequently, William Pike and the Dungannon Association acted quickly t recruit a dedicated work force by offers of free looms and money prizes. The recruitment program also had the added advantage of permitting the prize givers the right to oversee the operation of the free looms, a liberty that would ordinarily be denied in domestic industry. The experience of the new mechanical spinners was not lost on their counterparts in the finer branches of the linen industry who quickly picked up on the use of women to weave.

Although entrepreneurs in the coarse linen trade initiated the idea of utilizin females in weaving coarse mill-spun yarn, entrepreneurs who specialized in fine linens thought the innovation was useful to them. Soon after Pike circulated hi ideas among his Tyrone colleagues, John Christy confided to his brother that if he could get a few looms, he would distribute them to local females to weave lawns "as the work would not only be lighter but the wages more considerable" than those for coarse cloth.(41) Since cambrics and lawns were still woven from hand-spun yarn, women weavers would be recruited from former spinners. Christy acted, and became a local distributor of looms for the Linen Board in County Down.(42) In a short time he reported to John Foster that he examined a piece o lawn of superior quality woven by a female: "she certainly is the best weaver I ever saw of either sex."(43) The innovation, therefore, drew Christy, a respected linen bleacher, into the production end of the linen trade.

Young women responded enthusiastically to weaving. Over the three-year period 1806-1809 the Ulster Linen Board inspector Charles Duffin distributed over 1800 free looms with the help of gentlemen in the linen industry.(44) Over a six-month period the Tyrone committee alone exhausted its funds for prizes; almost 300 new female weavers claimed [pounds]169 in prizes.(45) Within a short time female weavers took on apprentices.(46) Besides providing substitute workers for male weavers engaged in war, the new weavers would prove to have long term consequences on the direction of Irish linen industry.

In the finer end of the linen industry, women weavers made the difference between a sputtering and an efficient putting-out system. Two-thirds of the female weavers in County Armagh lived near Portadown and in north Armagh, just west of the town of Lurgan.(47) In this area linen manufacturers put-out the finer yarns for cambrics and lawns. Bleacher Christy found that the grant of looms to female linen weavers gave new heart to putters-out. He reported that " spirit of industry is excited by it among the lower classes of People, which bids fair to establish the weaving of linen on a footing, extremely encouraging to the principal manufacturers." They "now get their goods returned to them wel done & in good time which before the females were employed, was frequently kept too long by the weavers as almost to render the business unworthy of their attention."(48) The appearance of female weavers at best triggered, or at least encouraged, an expansion of putting-out in Ulster's linen industry. Putting-out yarn made resident spinners obsolete. Freed from the wheel and equipped with a loom, females wove.

If putting-out undercut the traditional mode of production and wartime exigencies accelerated the growth of putting out, what effect would the wartime breech of the gender divide in Irish linen-making have on the industry afterwards? Wartime gains were modest. As detailed above, the strict division o labor between males and females changed at the lower and higher ends of the industry: at the lower end by coarse sailcloth and canvas weavers who had acces to mill-spun yam; at the higher end by cambric and lawn weavers outside Portadown and Lurgan who received finer yarns from putters-out. Apart from the figures derived from the number of looms distributed, the total of women weaver remains unknown. Millions of yards of plain linens (various coarse and medium grades) continued to be manufactured in the traditional way by farmer-weaver households. Nevertheless, the innovators' wartime initiatives guaranteed that the die was cast.

After the war, women were not withdrawn from the weaving work force. The earliest postwar census summary to identify the occupations of women was the Census of Ireland, 1841. Women weavers in Counties Down, Armagh and Tyrone, it reported, comprised 9 percent of all linen weavers, 17 percent of all cotton weavers and 13 percent of all unspecified weavers (the largest category of weavers).(49) Ten years later in 1851, the proportions increased dramatically; women accounted for 34 percent of linen weavers, 44 percent of cotton weavers and 38 percent of unspecified weavers(50)

Census summaries dated twenty-five and thirty-five years after the war's end, while suggestive, are hardly persuasive evidence of the role the Napoleonic war played in changing the construction of gender with respect to spinning and weaving. Too many intervening conditions could account for the female weavers reported in these census summaries. For instance, the mill-spinning of all grades of linen yarn was viable from 1830. Most women, therefore, lost their traditional spinning work by default, and offered putters-out an underutilized pool of employee weavers. If that were the case, women's wartime work experienc would have had little impact on reconstructing gender; technology, then, would account for opening up the occupation of weaver to women in the 1840s and 1850s In the first postwar census--the Irish Census of 1821--commissioners had data o the occupations of females, but did not report them in their summary tables. Fortunately, some household schedules do survive and on the basis of this evidence it seems clear that women continued to weave after the war.

A sample of 298 household schedules that survive for the Richhill area of central County Armagh indicates that wartime innovations in producing linen continued into peace time. In 1821, sixteen households had one female weaver.(51) They constituted 6 percent of all the weavers in the sample. All of them would have been spinners in 1800. A majority of these women weavers were unmarried daughters under the age of twenty-four. One was a "journeywoman." The oldest woman weaver was sixty-years-old and lived alone. Significantly, four of the sixteen women weavers were wives, two of landless weavers and two of farmer-weavers with a few acres. Despite the return of large numbers of Irish men from the army and navy, these figures prove that women weavers were not withdrawn from the weaving work force.

So necessary in war production, women continued to work at the loom immediately after the war not because of any further technological breakthroughs in spinnin medium grade yarns, but precisely because they were change agents. For a decade the reality that some women wove for a living stretched, and then breached, the boundary between gender and the loom. Data from the Richhill census sample illustrates further how war and industrial change interacted to redefine both work and gender.

Richhill was an estate where the independent farmer-weaver household was the norm. Yet, six years after the war, not only did women weavers constitute 6 percent of all weavers in the sample but also forty-nine households, approximately 18 percent of all households, were headed by landless rural weavers. Proletarian weavers and women weavers coexisting in this former bastio of independent producers were not isolated developments. By 1821 several marrie couples established households dependent solely on joint earnings from weaving linen. A new entity on this industrial landscape still dominated by traditional farmer-weavers, the rural household headed by a weaving couple represented a social transformation in the region. Not only was weaving no longer a strictly sex-linked occupation, but also the need to farm flax for spinning the household's yarn supply was a moot point. The persistence of women weavers was major component in an ongoing process of proletarianization.

The presence of rural proletarian weavers, male and female, in significant numbers after the war would not have been possible without the continued effort of industrial innovators who expanded putting out into the heartland of the independent weaver. Expansion of this mode of production relied on new capabilities developed by industrialists in wartime to gain control of the yarn supply. Certainly, the adoption of new technology contributed to these capabilities but it did not cause change. In this case, technology relied on changes in two other areas of production. First, industrialists had to convince some women to shift their work from spinning to weaving. Second, they had to promote the commercialization of flax farming. Innovators were successful on both counts. The dry spinning process did increase the supply of coarse linen yarn that women agreed to weave. Farming flax for sale, rather than for residen hand spinners, did supply the new spinning mills. The prewar link between farme and weaver snapped as some households adapted to changed conditions. After the war when the wartime uses for flax subsided, farmers found sufficient customers at local spinning mills and abroad.(52) Consequently, the innovators who had been the linchpin of a decade of industrial progress had created a yarn supply useful in expanding putting-out after 1815.

A decade of wartime production had changed the social and economic landscape. For innovators in the linen industry, the postwar challenge was to consolidate and expand their industrial achievements to meet new market conditions. To be competitive with German and French linens as well as cottons, Irish linen price had to be low. Such a market favored low labor costs and high volume, in short large supply of weavers, regardless of sex. Conditions during the Napoleonic wa were critical in redrawing the lines of gender and work to include women weavers; commercial interests in the postwar era had no incentive to exclude them.

Department of History Northampton, MA 01063


An earlier draft of this essay was presented to the 1991 conference of the Social Science History Association in New Orleans on November 3, 1991. I would like to thank the members of the panel ("Women in Household Production in the 18th Century") and the audience, especially Louise Tilly and David Miller, and the JSH readers for their constructive comments and suggestions.

1. Women, War and Revolution, Carol R. Berkin and Clara M. Lovett, eds. (New York, 1980). The eleven articles approach war and revolution cross-culturally and argue that these crises presented new opportunities for exploring gender roles and relationships. Of these, only three deal with war per se, those with the two world wars. A search of the Wilson line computer database turned up 107 entries on women and war; not one dealt with the Napoleonic wars.

2. Ivy Pinchbeck, Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution 1750-1850 (London 1981), p. 168. Pinchbeck's exhaustive study of woman workers found women weavin cotton, broadcloth and silk, but not linen. In 1812 the appearance of women in Dorset weaving linen sail cloth and canvas she attributed to war conditions, a temporary departure from custom.

3. E.R.R. Green, "Thomas Barbour and the American Linen-Thread Industry," in Irish Population, Economy and Society (Oxford, 1981), p. 219. In 1824 Samuel Colt--the inventor of the Colt pistol--was the first individual to successfully make duck from cotton rather than flax.

4. Jeremy Black and Philip Woodfine, The British Navy and the Use of Naval Powe in the Eighteenth Century, (Leicester, 1988), p. 207. In 1800 the navy consiste of 425 ships; by 1806 that number more than doubled and in 1809 there were 700 "active" ships with the remainder in repair. The peacetime navy consisted of 16,000 sailors which reached a wartime high of 145,000 in the 1810-1812 period. Increased ships and personnel forced the navy's budget up 900 percent to [pounds]20 million in 1813.

5. Michael Glover, Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1808-1814 (New York, 1977), pp. 33-35. Between 1804 and 1813 the army in the field increased from 150,500 to 207,000. In addition to the troops sent abroad, an army of infantrymen were compelled to serve at home: the militia (86,788 men in 1808), the Volunteers and Yeomanry (two other home defence forces). The 1802 Ballot Ac drafted into the militia all men between the ages of 18 and 40, exempting only clergymen, registered teachers, articled clerks, apprentices, seafaring men, employees of Royal dockyards and Arsenals, Freemen of the Co. of Watermen and those worth less than [pounds]100 a year who had one or more legitimate children.

6. W.A. McCutcheon, The Industrial Archaeology of Northern Ireland (Rutherford, NJ, 1984), p. 293.

7. Nesta Evans, The East Anglian Linen Industry: Rural Industry and Local Economy 1500-1850, The Pasold Studies in Textiles, No. 5 (Aldershot, Hants, England, 1985), Chapter 2; William Rimmer, Marshalls of Leeds Flax Spinners 1788-1886 (Cambridge, 1960) pp. 76-78; John Horner, The Linen Trade of Europe during the Spinning-wheel Period (Belfast, 1920), pp. 234-235.

8. Foster-Massereene Papers (Public Record Office, Northern Ireland [hereafter PRONI] D562/5663). "Objections to passing any laws in Britain to encourage any branch of their linen manufacture whether in Linen white or grey in chequers or cotton with Linen warps humbly submitted to consideration", Dublin, March 15, 1771. The writer criticized a British bill that would increase the bounties on the export of British chequers and offer a substantial premium on linen yarn imports, the warp of chequer cloth. Irish merchants, he feared, would ship additional quantities of Irish linen yarn to Britain and "render our people Spinners of Linen yarn only, and not manufacturers as they are ..."

9. Conrad Gill, The Rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford, 1925), pp. 340-343.

10. As early as 1801 British strategists anticipated a shortfall of flax supplies. J. Neumann, "Economic Aspects of the British Decision to Send a Naval Force to the Baltic Early in 1801," Journal of European Economic History 20 (Spring 1991): 125-35; W. Rimmer, Marshalls of Leeds, pp. 72-78.

11. Homer, The Linen Trade of Europe, pp. 206-07. Exports of hackled flax rose to 5644 cwt from virtually 0 in 1807. Exports of rough flax rose from 1807.

12. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5657), Letter of William Pike, Joseph Williams and Jonathan Hogg to Thomas Greer, Linen Inspector, January 2, 1806. "It may be necessary for information to state that flax and yarn has [sic] of late years advanced in price more than 50 pct.".

13. Ibid, (PRONI D562/5896-5927). Harry D. Gribbon, The History of Water Power in Ulster (Newtown Abbey, 1969), pp. 90-92. W.A. McCutcheon, pp. 293-295. McCutcheon identified bleacher Samuel Crookshank of County Down as the first mechanical spinner who accepted a subsidy from the Linen Board (10s per spindle to erect a spinning operation powered by water for sailcloth yarn in 1805. Between that year and 1809, eight other spinning operations were founded with subsidies from the Board. Gribbon shows that Irish experiments with mechanical spinning occurred earlier, in the late 1790s.

14. William Crawford, "Women in the Domestic Linen Industry," in Margaret Mac-Curtain and Mary O'Dowd, Women in Early Modern Ireland (Edinburgh, 1991), p 260. Crawford thinks that "it is probable . . . that many women engaged at busy time in weaving" and did so for narrow cloths used in the household, and that contemporaries thought that "the loom was too heavy for women especially as the weaver was required to stand and stoop over the cloth."

15. Returns from the Linen Board for the 1790s indicate the general practice of small-holders. County Armagh flax growers who claimed premiums in 1796 did so for one-fourth acre in flax. For example, of the 125 claimants in Kilmore parish, 87 grew a quarter of an acre, 27 one half acre, 3 three-quarters, and 8 one acre.

16. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/6194), Letter of Charles Duffin to Joh Foster, February 24, 1809.

17. Ibid. A shortfall of cheap flax was not the only threat to the Irish linen industry; Duffin had word that cotton manufacturers in Manchester were making u cottons in imitation of Linens and stamping them with the Harp and Crown to pas them off as Irish Linens. The initiatives taken by Irish entrepreneurs in the previous five years had tried to offset such aggressive competition.

18. J. Homer, pp. 171-172. By 1813 Ulster's total acreage in flax was almost 100,000.

19. George O'Brien, The Economic History of Ireland in the Eighteenth Century (Philadelphia, 1977 [1918]), p. 410. The participation of Irishmen in the Frenc wars during the 1790s probably accounted for the appalling condition of the poo in Dublin in 1799. A large number of family wage earners were away in naval and military service.

20. Ibid., p. 18. In 1799 official figures were available for Irish recruits fo the three year period 1796-1799. A total of 38,515 signed up: 11,457 in the navy; 4,058 in the marines; 23,000 in the army.

21. Glover, p. 25.

22. Ibid., p. 27. In 1803 the average bounty was [pounds]7.12.6; it rose to 12 guineas by 1805. Even after 53s were deducted for army necessaries, the recruit still had a balance of 200s. Army necessaries included: 1 pair of black cloth gaiters; 2 pairs of shoes; 1 pair of stockings (or 2 pairs of socks); 2 shirts; a foraging cap; a pair of worsted mittens; and a knapsack. From 1805, the age o recruits was reduced to 14 years.

23. Ibid., pp. 25-26. Army pay depended on the regiment: 1s/day in infantry; 1s1d in Foot Guards; 1s3d/day in cavalry of line; Life Guards privates pd 1s11; in Blues 1s 81/4d/day. Army pay included some costs of upkeep (housing) but standard deductions were made for rations (6d per day), laundry (4d a week) and sundries (about 11s annually). Clover compared army pay with those of a British farm laborer (14s6d/wk); domestic artisan (30s a week); bricklayer (5s6d a day) These comparisons are high for Ireland where the wage of an agricultural labore rose to 1s during the war and weavers of plain linen made little more. Cotton weavers, though, earned much higher wages.

24. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5652), Letter of William Pike, January 9, 1804. J. Horner, The Linen Trade of Europe, p. 186. From 1806-1809 Pike accepted three bounties averaging 35 shillings per spindle for building and expanding a dry-spinning mill to produce coarse linen yarn. Initially there wer 256 spindles, the number increased to 500 in 1809. The site was Derry-vale.

25. Ibid, pp. 56-57. Kay's patent of the fly shuttle in 1733 called it "a new invented shuttle for the better and more exact weaving of broad cloths, broad bays, sail cloths, or any other broad goods, woollen or linen, which shuttle is much lighter than the former . . . "Before the fly shuttle broad cloths require two weavers, one at either side, to throw the hand shuttle that contained the weft across the warp; the fly shuttle allowed one weaver to perform the operation alone and faster. The fly shuttle was adopted by the woollen weavers soon after its invention and was introduced into cotton weaving about 1760. Perhaps the fact that Irish linen did not exceed 43 inches, a width manageable by one weaver, explains to some extent why there was no urgency to adopt it in the eighteenth century.

26. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5652). Pike quoted current wages: 10d per day for employee weavers; 3d per day for spinners." . . . surely three penc a day for the industry of a stout healthy young woman is by no means adequate t her comfortable support." W. Crawford, "Women in the Domestic Linen Industry," p. 260. Hired live-in female servants who often spun made 30s a half year. Around Lisburn spinners were hired by the quarter at 10s to 12s plus lodging an board and spun 5 hanks of 8 hank yarn in a week. Spinning fine yarn might bring earnings to 8d a day, but spinning coarser yarns brought 4d to 6d a day (a girl of 12 could earn 1.5d to 2d a day).

27. Ibid. Pike estimated the cost of each slay at half a guinea. The proposed slays would be distributed by Linen Board trustees from Tyrone or a local committee of registered bleachers who would require recipients to agree to use fly slays only.

28. Ibid, (PRONI D562/5653). Thomas Greer and others to Charles Duffin, "Resolutions of the Meeting of Linen Drapers and others at Dungannon on the 13t of June 1805 for considering the present state of the Coarse Linen Trade in thi Part of the Country . . . "Thomas Greer was treasurer and committee members included: William Pike, J. Armstrong, Thomas Geraghty, Thomas Hannyington, Joseph Williams, William Murray, William Heather, Samuel McDonnell, Jonathan Hogg, Thomas Greer and John Courtney. Hogg and Greer were based in County/Antrim.

29. Ibid.

30. Ibid, (PRONI D562/5655), Letter of John Foster to James Vernen, November 27 1805.

31. Ibid, (PRONI D562/5656), Minutes of the Dungannon Association, March 6, 1806.

32. The slay of a loom is the reed. Adjustments in the reed were necessary to use a fly shuttle. To contemporaries the terms "fly slays" and "fly shuttle" were used interchangeably to indicate the same technology.

33. Ibid, (PRONI D562/5656), Minutes of the Dungannon Association, May 15, 1806

34. Ibid, Minutes of the Dungannon Association, May 15, 1806.

35. Ibid, Minutes of the Dungannon Association, October 9, 1806.

36. Ibid, Minutes: May 15, 1806; October 9, 1806.

37. Ibid, Minutes, May 15, 1806. The new scheme of premiums paid 8s for cloth o 700 count, 12s for 800 count, 16s for 900 count and 20s for 1000 count and over

38. Pike cited 3d a day as the average earnings of hand spinners and 10d a day for weavers who worked in coarse goods for putters-out. In the 1770s linen weavers' earnings were about 40 percent higher than those of agricultural laborers; by 1812 the wages of agricultural workers had caught up to those of linen weavers who wove coarse and medium grade plain linen. The war triggered a agricultural boom; acres of land in pasture and woods went into tillage. Since women received on average 50 percent of the daily wage of men, women must have earned about 5d per day during the war.

39. Paul Douglas, "Elasticity of Supply as a Determinant of Distribution" in Economic Essays: Contributions in Honour of John Bates Clark, Jacob B. Hollander, ed. (New York, 1927), pp. 17-118. Douglas discusses the importance o labor supply in raising the prices of goods.

40. W. Rimmer, Marshalls of Leeds, pp. 82-83. Rimmer cites the number of small flax spinners that went out of business in years when Napoleon's blockade was the most effective. In these years Marshalls had to lay off workers because the increased price of their yarns inhibited sales.

41. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5654), Letter of John Christy to James Christie, October 5, 1805.

42. Proceedings of the Linen Board 1810, Appendix 1, nos. 3, 4.

43. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5659), Letter of John Christy to John Foster, November 28, 1807.

44. Proceedings of the Linen Board 1810, No. 3. Linen Board inspector Charles Duffin stated this figure in his deposition to the Board.

45. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5656), Minutes, May 15, 1806. Because the prizes varied according to the grade of linen woven, number of 300 is an estimate. If all the females wove 700 count cloth, the number was 422. See footnote no. 37 above for the scheme of premiums.

46. Proceedings of the Linen Board 1810, p. 52. Margaret Devitt's original deposition certifying her eligibility for a free loom was lost in 1806. To strengthen her case in the reapplication of 1809, she stated that she "has learned some apprentices, (as it is her common employment these many years past and expects with the assistance of God to learn more yet."

47. Foster-Massereene Papers (PRONI D562/5658), Letter of John Christy to John Foster, January, 1807.

48. Ibid.

49. "Census of Ireland of 1841," in British Parliamentary Papers, Population, (Irish University Press) volume 2, pp. 326, 284, 356.

50. "Census of Ireland, 1851," British Parliamentary Papers, Population (Irish University Press), v. 2, pp. 391, 405, 465, 515. These figures included County Antrim as well as Counties Armagh, Down and Tyrone. The production end of the linen industry had begun its drift toward Belfast by 1851. I did not include figures for the city of Belfast.

51. Extract of Kilmore Parish, County Armagh of the Census of Ireland, 1821, from the enumerator's notebook. The manuscript is located in the Armagh Library typescripts are located in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, T1228/ and T450.

52. The Phoenix Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey, in 1817 spun ove two and one-half tons of Irish-raised flax a week. E.R.R. Green, "Thomas Barbou and the American Linen-Thread Industry," p. 219.
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Author:McKernan, Anne
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Date:Sep 22, 1994
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