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Yorkshire lasses and their lads: sexuality, sexual customs, and gender antagonisms in Anglo-American working-class culture.

Industrialization, especially nineteenth-century factory work, challenged the patterns of working-class family life and the moral role of women, which varied widely from region to region and from industry to industry. (1) Patrick Joyce defined class and gender relations in the factory culture of Lancashire and of Yorkshire's West Riding in the late nineteenth-century as deferential, harmonious, and paternalistic ties, largely between employers and working men. (2) In this essay, examples of female agency and voice from industrial Yorkshire reveal far greater gender conflict within this factory culture than Joyce recognized. These conflicts included sexually charged customs and behaviors, such as the ritual humiliation of men by working women, and new meanings for female agency in premarital sexual activities. A textual and contextual appraisal of ethnic fiction about Yorkshire immigrant life in New England set in the early twentieth century can deepen an understanding of gender and class by providing glimpses of the elusive world of female working-class sexuality. (3) The same appraisal reveals significant continuity between Yorkshire and the New England immigrants, despite assumptions of rapid assimilation.

Yorkshire immigrant Hedley Smith (1909-1992) wrote novellas and published short stories to preserve the West Riding dialect and homeland customs in the early twentieth-century mill village of Greystone in the town of North Providence, Rhode Island. (4) As a lad of fourteen, Hedley Smith arrived in Rhode Island with his family in 1923, twenty years after the rebuilding of Greystone by a Yorkshire-based worsted firm. Without classes to attend, the teen-aged Hedley with his brother Sam, who was not allowed to enter the local mills, listened to "front porch stories" about the bitter regrets and experiences of parents, friends, and neighbors forced to relocate to New England from an economically declining Yorkshire. (5) Smith, a naturalized American citizen, lived and worked in a bi-cultural society, but his fiction focused on the stubborn resilience of homeland culture. (6) His stories, which are based both in the region around Bradford, Yorkshire and in the exclusive ethnic enclave of fictional "Briardale" set in Greystone and four surrounding mill villages, yield vignettes of the historic experience of female heterosexuality among Yorkshire working- class people. Smith acquired his knowledge of women weavers, courtship customs, and working--class sexuality from village gossip and from his connections among men at the Greystone Social Club. His stories also drew upon close ties to his mother and grandmother, both weavers, and their friends and neighbors in Yorkshire and Rhode Island. (7) Smith's uses of village gossip overheard as a lad and cultivated as an adult encouraged him to depict episodes of female sexuality through his fictional fantasies and his descriptions of homeland sexual customs.

Historians Charlotte Erickson and Rowland T. Berthoff, have represented nineteenth-century English immigrants to the United States as easily acculturated into American society and thus socially "invisible." (8) In contrast, Hedley Smith's fictional world of Briardale reflects an early twentieth-century cultural and labor diaspora driven by specific late nineteenth-century economic circumstances. (9) Forcibly dispersed by economic crisis in the worsted industry, Yorkshire migrants in Hedley Smith's "Briardale" stories did not seek assimilation or a new life. Rather, they maintained close connections with their culture in the West Riding and returned when possible. According to sociologist Robin Cohen, the "old country" for such migrants becomes a "notion often buried deep in language, religion, custom or folklore" in ethnic culture and literature. (10)

Analysis of working-class female European immigrants to the United States at the turn of the century based on ethnic fiction set in that era offers some glimpses of female sexuality. (11) Karen Majewski's study of ethnic fiction explores the uses of sexuality in the shaping of a Polish-American identity. (12) Daniel Bender used ethnic fiction and working class memoirs to probe the varied responses of immigrant garment workers in the Northeast to sexual harassment by bosses and male workers. (13) Observations by the state and private relief agencies provide public constructions of the private lives of immigrant people. More rare is evidence on sexual behaviors from within the ethnic community, such as the fiction of Hedley Smith that portrays the persistence of Yorkshire custom and behavior in New England mill villages.

Female working-class sexuality as represented in Smith's ethnic fiction can be compared with and verified by working-class memoirs and reportorial accounts of the social conditions in the Yorkshire worsted industry. (14) The historiography of Yorkshire working-class life and trade unionism provides another context within which both fiction and observations can be interpreted. Texts carefully positioned in Anglo- American contexts provide new perspectives on the sexuality of working women, not as victims or objects, but as active players in gender and class conflicts. Yorkshire lasses and older women used their sexuality to define their female adulthood through sexual experimentation during courtship, to discipline male aggressiveness and patriarchy, and to advance their status as working women.

In Smith's Briardale tales, mill villagers in Yorkshire expected working-class lads and lasses to have "their fun" until a mutually desired pregnancy led to a chapel wedding. But for a lass to use sexuality to climb out of her class or for her to be educated beyond village norms led to public denunciations of the upstart as a whore or of her family as "uppity." (15) Mill lasses learned from each other ways of countering conception, for example with herbal abortificients such as pennyroyal. (16) Smith's fictional accounts are supported by historian Karl Ittmann who cited illegitimacy rates in Bradford as "fairly constant" between 1851 and 1881 averaging between 6 and 8 percent, while female-controlled networks of sex information and abortion became the major means of family limitation in late nineteenth-century Yorkshire. (17) Female subculture made abortion an accepted part of working-class life. (18) In Hedley Smith's unpublished novella, "The Mill Folk," Martha Denby bragged to her niece that as a mill lass she had also controlled access to her body. "Of course I had my fun with the lads in my time. But I were smart enough to know when to keep the gate shut.... And it's been a lot happier and more sensible life than tewing your guts out at a loom all day, and then coming home to breed babbies all night to follow on in your footsteps at the mill." (19) Martha Denby's experiences as a weaver shaped both her sexual experimentation and her rebellion.

The memoirs of Yorkshire-born writer J. B. Priestley and other autobiographical accounts confirm Hedley Smith's depictions of the courtship behaviors of mill lasses and lads. Priestley's mother, who died after his birth in 1894, and grandparents on each side were mill workers, "both men and women," a "solid steady sort." His school teacher father "plucked my mother, my real mother, about whom I know nothing except she was high-spirited and witty, from the clogs and shawls 'back o't mill', a free and easy, rather raffish kind of working-class life, where in the grim little back-to-back houses they shouted and screamed, laughed and cried, and sent out a jug for more beer." (20) At sixteen, Priestley became a junior clerk with Helm and Company of Bradford, exporters of wool tops to manufacturers on the Continent and "even as far as Rhode Island." He recalled avidly watching the "dressing-up, display, showing off, pursuit and capture" during promenades of "lads and girls" at Bradford's summer concerts. (21) Priestley defended female mill workers who went about having their raucous "fun." As he put it: "There was nothing sly, nothing hypocritical, about these coarse dames and screaming lasses, who were devoted to their own men, generally working in the same mill, and kept on 'courting', though the actual courtship stage was over early, for years and years until a baby was due, when they married. They may not have lived happily afterwards, but they saved themselves from some unpleasant surprises." (22) Priestley's acculturated observations of pre-World War I working-class female sexuality revealed neither revulsion nor shame.

Memoirs of working-class life in early twentieth-century English textile centers recount as a matter of course the weddings of pregnant brides as a result of sexual experimentation during courting. Some of that courting occurred on the mills' loading docks with overhanging roofs. (23) "Courters" hurried up their wedding day because "a child was on the way," but mothers who failed to wed in accordance with working-class customs were commonly considered disgraceful outcasts. (24) The courtship and marriage of Yorkshire union leader Ben Turner followed this pattern, although as a respectable union man his memoirs omitted any mention of pre-marital sexuality. At eighteen, Turner began courting his wife at the same mill where he worked. "It was pretty early, but I haven't a single regret, except that I might have started sooner." After three years, they married, and his wife left her mill job. (25) Some of these Yorkshire customs had deep roots in pre-factory mill villages. In early nineteenth-century Yorkshire, villagers regarded "older courters" as "man and wife. In fact such were wed, except [for] the outward ceremony at church...." (26) As late nineteenth-century Yorkshire dialect poet John Hartley wrote:
 ... Weddin is joyous,--its pleasur unstinted;
 but coortin is th' sweetest thing iver invented. (27)


Yet some lasses rejected contact with "t' lads" for fear of entrapment by marriage into mill life. In the reminiscences of a "Bradford Mill Girl," Maggie Newbery, from the rural East Riding of Yorkshire, became a scared half-time mill worker in 1913. When Maggie was nine in 1910, her father, a failed tenant farmer, relocated his family of twelve children to Bradford where they could find work. At twelve she worked half time as an unskilled doffer, excited at first, then quickly exhausted and disillusioned. "Old Harriet," who taught the new girls, warned Maggie against the dangers of the machinery and of the "cheeky buggers" among the mill boys. (28) One day in 1915, now a full-time spinner working on yarn for Army uniforms, she was dreaming of a different life while neglecting her machines, when a co-worker asked her, "Nay Maggie, you were miles away. Is it some lad you're thinking about?" "No it isn't ... I don't bother wi' t' lads." (29) Exhausted by the war's compulsory overtime, Maggie left the mill. (30) Hedley Smith's short stories captured situations like these to reveal the dilemmas and character of Yorkshire women, and they won the praise of Yorkshire novelist Phyllis Bentley. (31)

Studies of English working women, working-class leisure, the family and its declining fertility, of motherhood and marriage, of divorce, abuse, crime, and violence, of prostitution and purity movements, of industrial paternalism and trade unionism offer little specific evidence on female sexuality as agency. (32) Classic oral histories, such as Elizabeth Roberts's 1984 study of Lancashire working-class sexuality, emphasized repression and ignorance, reporting that "sex was not fun" for working-class women. (33) In contrast, Jan Lambertz suggested that in Lancashire cotton mills, working women exchanged sexual information and tolerated "consensual sexual play" between workers. (34) Ittmann's study of fertility in mid-Victorian Bradford, Yorkshire, questioned the prevalence of working-class sexual prudery and reticence, pointing to a late nineteenth- century tradition of female bawdiness and open sexual antagonism in Yorkshire. Arguing that the family became "a contested ground" as a result of late nineteenth- century economic crisis, Ittmann cited incidents of working-class men engaged in nude foot-racing and swimming that attracted groups of female mill workers, scandalizing the middle class. (35)

Smith's fiction both confirms Ittmann and explores the erotic power of female physicality from the point of view of both sexes. Yorkshire men idealized and naturalized the passionate eroticism of their lasses. In fictional Briardale, heavy breasts, big hips, ample "bums," long, luxuriant hair, and fair, rosy "peaches and cream" complexions define the male ideal of female beauty. (36) These lasses embrace sexual encounters with men without hesitation or shame, a reflection of Yorkshire views on their "essential" female natures. But Smith's unpublished novella, "The Mill Folk" also reveals an awareness by women of their sexual powers and their willingness to use their eroticism as agency. One young Yorkshire-born Briardale lass contemplated the power relations between the sexes.
 ... I'd learned a lesson unknown to myself.... [F]rom now on I felt
 that somehow I was stronger.... And I was! For that is the way Nature
 plans it, making it up to women for all the spiteful things she heaps
 on them otherwise. For if they are right women they can always hold a
 man by that he has between his legs, and make him dance to their tune
 and follow to their leading for as long as they want. (37)


Hedley Smith's fiction represents sexual and emotional ties as the primary bonds of social life. Women, empowered by their sexuality, acted as the potential or actual arbiters of power within the family. (38)

Evidence of female victimization, however, predominates in many other studies and personal accounts. During early Yorkshire industrialization, violent sexual antagonism between the growing female factory workforce in Bradford, Yorkshire, and "attacks by men on women operatives," were commonplace. (39) Young factory lads developed nineteenth-century rituals of sexual humiliation and "shouted naughty and pert obscenities," when "lassies" in textile mills removed their stockings before work, and then pulled up the clothes of female sleepers during rest periods. (40) In the late nineteenth century, letters to the Yorkshire Factory Times reported an incident of an overseer disciplining one young female spinner by throwing up her skirts and smacking her with his hand, which her family viewed as a sexual assault. Another letter from a woman weaver, described the "tickling" of an overseer in a dark corner of the weave shed, an intimacy required to get work. (41) On the whole, sexual tensions during nineteenth-century industrial change seemed to victimize females. Some young women in Bradford, however, confronted abusive overlookers individually. In a 1907 case, the victim slapped the face of the offender. When he tried to send her home, she reported the incident to the office, and the overseer himself was dismissed. (42) Such individual acts however were very risky.

In the Lancashire cotton textile industry, even well-organized women weavers and carders who reported sexual bullying and mistreatment to their trade union officials found them to be reluctant, problematic allies. (43) Female cotton weavers in Lancashire feared losing their jobs and turned to family and kin to confront weave room overlookers, called tacklers, who sexually abused them verbally and physically. Tacklers, usually brawny with rough language and manners, were however regarded in Lancashire as skilled and respectable working men who commonly bullied weavers and chose favorites. Many women cotton weavers, who feared public shaming as victims of sexual violation or blacklisting as troublemakers, responded by changing jobs and warning other women. Lancashire working women apparently did not confront abusers directly or individually.

Women's work in the Yorkshire textile industry provides another context in which to analyze material from Smith's fiction on the behaviors of Yorkshire lasses and lads who "had their fun" prior to marriage. In nineteenth-century Yorkshire, young females were systematically denied access to skills in the worsted industry, resulting in a sexual division of labor, which relegated them to poorly paid and unrewarding work. In the paternalist ideology of mid-nineteenth century Yorkshire, the working- class home and its harmonious domestic arrangements were central to industrial order. (44) Titus Salt, owner of the 1853 model paternalist village of Saltaire in Bradford, regarded the pre-industrial village with its beer, lust, and freedom of moors and fields as the source of riotous Chartist and anti-factory agitation in the 1830s and 1840s. (45) Indeed, courters had free access to secluded woods and village lanes in the early nineteenth century. (46) Mid-nineteenth-century paternalists in the West Riding provided domestic training to mill lasses who were expected to drop out of the workforce once married. Typically "when young people had fallen into sin," their employers expected them to marry or quit. Still, wives dependent on their husbands' earning at Saltaire stoutly refused to use the mills' washing and bathing facilities as inconvenient and an "invasion of their privacy." (47) Strict regulation of behaviors in both factory and dwellings, supported by middle-class outrage at youthful activities in dance halls and outside controlled "parks" and leisure grounds, indicated intense anxiety about expressions of working-class sexuality. (48)

James Burnley, a reporter for the Bradford Observer, reflected the anxieties of the middle classes in his depictions of saucy behavior by factory women. In "A Day at the Mill," published in 1871, he described his humiliation during a visit to a Bradford worsted mill. "On first entering [the weave shed], it seems as if some accident would be sure to befal [sic] you.... [A]fter a while you are able to watch the machinery ... and to feel that life and limb are not really in peril. But no sooner have you recovered from one embarrassment than you are thrown into the midst of another." Burnley described the female weavers as cheerful, spirited, and some of them good-looking.
 The weavers, one and all, have their [mostly female] eyes upon you;
 they are taking notes of and commenting upon your personal appearance,
 and the cut of your garments. Not a flaw in your whole being escapes
 them. It is not a mere passing examination that you are the victim of,
 but an unmitigated, unblushing, microscopic stare, which you are not
 likely to forget to the last moment of your existence; and the worst
 of it is you are unable to retaliate. In the course of an hour or two,
 however, they seem to have so thoroughly possessed themselves of every
 detail respecting you which could possibly interest them, that they
 grow somewhat less attentive to your movements, and you recover a
 portion of your natural ease. (49)


Women weavers were defending themselves against the condemnatory scrutiny of strangers, such as Burnley, who characterized them to the middle-class public. His intense embarrassment at the unseemly staring and unheard comments on his person suggests a sexual shaming as well as class impudence. Projecting his sense of humiliation, Burnley denounced in the strongest terms what he regarded as the vicious sensuality of mill lads and lasses at local dance halls and in the streets at night. (50) Frightened but fascinated, Burnley was observing the courtship customs of the lasses and their lads.

Yorkshire lasses experimented sexually with various partners but with a different purpose from working-class female behaviors in Lancashire. Joanna Bornat's concept of the marginalized lives of Yorkshire working women offers an explanation for the sexual activities of these mill lasses. (51) Their marginalization from skilled work and union activity prompted them to move actively toward female adulthood and marriage, preparing them to leave the paid workforce unlike their counterparts in Lancashire. Girls as young as eleven entered the worsted mills. Between fifteen and eighteen as they reached puberty, young women became throstle or ring spinners, carders, and weavers. For as long as they remained textile workers, mill lasses could expect no advances in skills or in wage rates or any role in changing their situation through union activity. Most female workers in the worsted factories would marry and soon after drop out of the work force. Middle-class Yorkshire and the trades unions widely condemned working wives. For a mill lass with little future for advancement in the workforce, sexual experimentation seemed the next logical step on the road to marriage and female adulthood, while she turned over her Saturday wage packet to her family. Indeed pregnancies among brides in mill villages were commonplace in Yorkshire and Lancashire, but in the cotton industry wives worked and joined in union activities.

Labor historian Tony Jowitt, comparing the robust labor activity in the Lancashire cotton industry with late nineteenth and early twentieth century Yorkshire, ascribes the "retardation" of union organization largely to the vast numbers of low-paid, young female workers who dominated weaving and spinning. (52) Both paternalist employers and skilled unionists in worsted factories deliberately perpetuated this situation by denying craft training and union activity to women. W. H. Drew, leader of the West Riding Weavers' Association, openly opposed the working wife. (53) Thus they drove many of the more experienced and skilled married weavers out of the mill workforce. Far fewer friendly societies that included women existed in Yorkshire than in Lancashire, but some offered protections to women workers. (54) Male family members pressured young women to join unions and often paid their dues but allowed them no role in union activities. (55) The majority of low paid, young females in the spinning and weaving departments remained unorganized, while skilled male workers such as wool sorters and dyers had strong craft unions. (56) Between 1851 and 1881, only about 20 percent of all married women in Bradford with one child under the age of five worked outside the home. (57) As Joanna Bornat pointed out, the opposition to and disapproval of occasional female militancy from the General Union of Textile Workers (although unionist Ben Turner supported female suffrage), from local union leaders and male co-workers, and from working-class communities resulted in "lost leaders" among women textile workers in the worsted industry. (58) But marginalization had consequences, intensifying gender antagonism.

Despite the condemnation of working wives by the middle class and trade unionists, older married women weavers in Yorkshire, beginning in the 1870s, forged a direct connection between family limitation and their subsequent return to the workforce. In response to declining wages and recurrent depression in the worsted industry, a generation of working-class wives who had found the means to control fertility largely through abortion returned to weaving. In 1851, of married women who worked in textiles 29 percent were over the age of thirty-five, while in 1881, 63 percent of women working in textiles [presumably as weavers] were over thirty-five. (59) Indeed, as Ittmann argued, "the pace of fertility decline continued to increase in Bradford up to the First World War." (60) By the first decade of the twentieth century married women represented between 10 and 15 percent of the total worsted labor force. (61) Some married women were experienced menders (burlers), highly skilled but not highly paid needlework. (62) Others like Hedley Smith's mother Alice Collins Smith advanced to skilled jacquard weaving. These older, experienced women workers provided the female leadership during late nineteenth-century strikes.

Regardless of the strength of trade union patriarchy and corporate paternalism backed by intense middle-class anxiety about working-class sexuality, female textile workers acted to defend themselves. Studies of specific Yorkshire strikes in 1868, 1875, 1876, and 1891 indicate that women textile workers led by older, married weavers worked together to resist wage cuts in spite of community disapproval. Maria Bottomley argued that female strike leaders in 1875 won wage increases and organized a weavers' union for men and women in Batley and Dewsbury near Huddersfield, Yorkshire. But they faced taunts from their employers, co-workers, families, and communities that equated female militancy with being "brazen" and "having cheek:" aggressive behaviors that questioned their moral "decency." (63) In other strikes, such as in 1868 and 1876 at Titus Salt's alpaca mills at Saltaire in Bradford, wool combers, weavers, and spinners (men and women, boys and girls) cooperated to protest against wage cuts. (64) A strike at the Manningham mills in 1882 that foreshadowed the great strike in 1890-91 united female and male silk plush weavers who opposed wage cuts and bad conditions. (65)

Rank and file weavers initiated Bradford's Manningham Mills strike in 1890-91 against the advice of W. H. Drew, leader of the Bradford weavers' union. (66) As former worsted workers, the striking men and women weavers possessed special skills for producing silk velvets and expected better wages, not the drastic cuts that precipitated the strike. Labor activist Ben Turner's account of the Manningham strike in which he played a key role included his keen appreciation of the "brave" but nameless women who outnumbered men on the strike committee. (67) Many other women raised crucial strike funds and joined in crowd actions that led to the harassing and stoning of members of the Board of Directors. (68) The participation of women workers in the Manningham strike defied their marginalization and subordination in trade unions, but the strike failed. Meanwhile, the issues of state suppression of the political liberties of free speech and assembly during the last month of the strike galvanized English labor politicians and trade unionists to establish a genuine working-class political party. English labor historians heralded the Manningham strike as the catalyst for the formation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. (69) But women workers, whatever the degree of their activism, could not vote for Labour Party candidates. Despite some largely ambivalent support for female suffrage, the ILP joined the trade unions as another ground for the marginalization of working-class females. (70) Gender antagonisms and marginalization could prompt informal uses of female power.

Smith's narratives reveal the social scripting of sexual behaviors among the "lads" and "lasses." His fiction also portrays conflicts and tensions among working-class men and women and the uses of patriarchy in controlling working women and unmarried lasses. Hedley Smith's personal life shaped his erotic idealization of Yorkshire "lasses" and sensitized him to the social and cultural chasms between the native-born and immigrants in Rhode Island society. The Briardale fiction starkly contrasts the passionate heterosexual eroticism of Yorkshire lasses with desexualized Yankee women. (71) The men of Briardale scorned the sallow skin, long jaws, sharp noses, and skinny bodies of Yankee females. Sam Knowles, a weaving overlooker, likened the experience of bedding them to cuddling so many "razor blades." (72) Often cast as moral hypocrites, Yankee women were either prudish or sexually calculating, while Yorkshire lasses embraced sexual encounters with men spontaneously, eagerly, and unashamedly.

This fictional bifurcation reflected in part the writer's troubled marriage. (73) Smith's marriage to Carmen Fowler, a Yankee schoolteacher with kinship ties to Maine and the "second" Mayflower, fed the cultural and personal conflicts central to the Briardale fiction. Smith's mother Alice, a skilled worsted weaver with little formal education, had made sure her two sons were educated in Yorkshire and suffered the mill villagers' scorn for it. Still, her unsympathetic daughter-in-law Carmen disdained the Yorkshire connection. She forced her husband into a "serious rupture" with his mother, breaking from his immediate family, depriving Smith's children of contact with their nearby grandparents, and distancing Hedley from his brother Sam. The antagonism between husband and wife festered. His wife's refusal to leave her maternal home in North Scituate, RI, and her threats to divorce him, prevented Smith from getting better-paid, more interesting jobs in livelier locations. Their daughter Portia once slipped into the house, declaring that she had located evidence of her mother's English roots in Yorkshire to which her father replied dryly: "I always knew that I had married a Yorkshire lass." (74)

Smith's fiction explores the controlling power of patriarchy and resulting female rebellion as well as acquiescence. For example, Grandfather Denby, the patriarchal father in Smith's novella, "The Mill Folk," regards all women, including his faithful wife, his daughters, and his daughters-in-law, as objects of his more or less controlled lusts. Insisting on his rights as master of the house in the late nineteenth-century mill village of Wilsden, Yorkshire, he spanks his impudent teenage daughter Martha like a child on her bare backside in front of the family. In retaliation and partly for his refusal to let her continue her schooling, Martha threatens the family welfare by withholding her wages as a weaver. She then boards with another family and becomes sexually active to great village scandal. Even worse, she lands herself an older wealthy husband and leaves Yorkshire for Rhode Island. (75) The novella also includes an account of the sexual dismissal by his daughter- in-law Nance of the ageing Grandfather Denby, greedily staring at her swinging breasts as she washes herself in the kitchen. (76) As a "right woman," Nance uses her physicality to show that she minds him no more than a "bairn" or a puppy. His days of intimidating the women of his family with his aggressive sexuality are over. Smith's portrayal of sexual tensions within the family extended to relationships within the workforce.

Women weavers in Yorkshire and in North Providence mill villages used sexual humiliation to discipline their male co-workers in the weave shed through a late nineteenth-century custom called "sunning." In his memoirs, J. B. Priestley described "sunning" as a mythic ritual. (77) He recalled his own public encounters with female weavers in pre-1914 Bradford.
 Sometimes, when I finished earlier than usual at the office and walked
 home, the route I preferred took me past one of the largest mills in
 the district, often just when the women were coming out. I would find
 myself breasting a tide of shawls, and something about my innocent
 dandyism would set them screaming at me, and what I heard then, though
 I was never a prudish lad, made my cheeks burn. And it was still the
 custom, in some mills if not in that particular one, for the women to
 seize a newly-arrived lad and "sun"' him, that is, pull his trousers
 down and reveal his genitals. But all this not unwholesome and perhaps
 traditional female bawdiness--there was a suggestions of mythology,
 ancient worship, folklore, about that queer "sunning" ritual--was far
 removed from cynical whoring. (78)


Priestley's easy ascription of the "sunning" custom to pre-industrial village customs or to "traditional female bawdiness" ignored the long-term sexual antagonism within Yorkshire mill life and trade unionism. (79)

In Smith's fictional version of sunning, he imagines collective female action overpowering a new lad, displaying, denigrating, handling, and dirtying his genitalia. These women thus sent a message of female power to the whole working-class community: lads, lovers, husbands, co-workers, and overseers: all of them once "cheeky buggers." In doing so, sexual harassment, "a form of gender policing, a capturing of sex and sexuality in search of power and control," was turned on its head. (80) Smith probably absorbed accounts of this sunning ritual over pork pies and pints of bitter at the Greystone Social Club. "The Mill Folk," depicts the Yorkshire ritual of sexual humiliation reenacted by female immigrant weavers who were challenging the foundations of emerging sexual patriarchy in a North Providence mill village. (81) They select a young lad to be "sunned."
 The first thing he'd [a new lad] be doing would be ... delivering
 [filled bobbins] to the women at the looms in the weave shed.... A
 young beginner was always fair game to his older mates, lads and
 lasses alike, and the women were the worse of the two. There were some
 old traditions and customs that he'd have to go through before he was
 accepted as one of them, that would hurt him in body and spirit alike
 ..., like being 'sunned'....


Chasing the terrified new lad out of the mill,
 [a] whole crowd of women and lasses same as a pack of fox hounds in
 full scent, only noisier, [went] galloping across the field, their
 skirts flying and their hair tossing and their scarves streaming in
 back of them.... They shrieked with laughter as they gathered round,
 and one of them, a big buxom lass ... only just recently wed, flung
 herself across his chest. She held his arms tight and her big bosoms
 pinned him down to the ground while others caught hold of his legs,
 which were thrashing about and held them still so that others could
 get his trousers down....
 "Aye, let's see what he's gotten," they screamed, and "Nay, he's
 nobbut half a man at that," and "Reach us the oil can here." They had
 a long spouted oil can with 'em and they emptied it onto his privates
 and rubbed it well in with hard hands and fingers and knuckles that
 were used to kneading a bowl 'o dough and did the same thing now with
 his wincing flesh. Then, when they'd had their fun, they broke and
 scattered same as a flock of crows, and went galloping off across the
 fields, screeching and laughing like demons ...," leaving the lad
 wretched and sobbing. (82)


This ritual of male humiliation by working women constitutes sexually charged "rough usage." (83) Nonetheless, sunning was performed within the context of a new lad being "fair game" to his older mates, both lads and lasses. Indeed the women did appear to give out the worst. Historians of immigration to the U.S. have debated whether or not female immigrants represented the "arch-conservators of tradition." (84) If so, these Yorkshire immigrant weavers were actively choosing which traditions to conserve and use for their own purposes.

The symbolism of the sunning ritual as reconstructed in Smith's "The Mill Folk" is richly sexual and deeply abusive. The young victim is dragged away from the patriarchal weave shed and other men by a group of women workers, the mature and newly-married teaching the younger how to proceed. In a flash the lad is alone, bewildered, and at their mercy. Even if forewarned by his more experienced mates, the young victim could scarcely believe the actuality of the ritual. The once familiar faces of the weavers who now dominate the situation are transformed. They chase the lad as if they were foxhounds and he the fox to be torn apart when caught for sport. Galloping after him in a pack--hair tossing, skirts flying--they catch him with anticipatory shrieks of laughter knowing what is to come. This "disorderly" public behavior by ordinary working women transforms them into demons and crows, merciless and rending. Throwing the terrified lad down and pinning his arms--one with her ample bosoms--and holding his legs, they can do with him as they like. As his trousers come down and his genitals are exposed, the laughing women gather around, evoking primal fears of castration. And their judgments denigrating the size of his penis are cutting indeed. Let's see what he's got; he's "nobbut" half a man. "Reach us the oil can here." They all have agreed. The punishment for not being a fully developed male in their eyes is the oil can.

That oil can was close to hand. In textile production, men controlled all the machinery. Adjusting and repairing machinery was skilled work strictly reserved for men. (85) No woman weaver was supposed to touch or adjust her looms, although many did to speed their work. But men and women weavers shared the oiling of their machinery in post-Civil War American cotton mills, and presumably also in Lancashire and Yorkshire. (86) The oil in the can itself was relatively clean, but smearing lubrication for machinery on the human body is ritual pollution. It would seep through the lad's pants; he cannot return unwashed to the mill. He is soiled. Once well oiled, the women rub his genitals with hard hands and rough movements until they judge the job well done. Unmanly tears streak his face, his flesh wincing from the pain and the public humiliation by females. Some of these lads may have had uncontrollable partial erections during the sunning ritual, another measure of being "nobbut half a man." (87) Satisfied, the screeching women romp off, finished with their prey and having "had their fun." (88) Bewildered by the cruelty and wanton mistreatment, the lad will never forget what ordinary women in his mill village are capable of. He will carry this lesson into the mill and the union where he will face those same female weavers on new grounds of respect tinged with fear. Female weavers in Belgian cotton textile factories developed more individual acts of sexual humiliation, which their male victims called rape. (89) While represented as high drama by Smith, the sunning ritual of young lads joined other customs of initiation in late nineteenth-century working-class culture.

In choosing new lads to be sexually humiliated, women workers in both Bradford, Yorkshire and "Briardale," Rhode Island challenged their marginalization in the textile factory, friendly society, and the trade union. Female spinners, facing faster speeds and additional frames to tend, cursed their young tormentors among the bobbin boys but feared sexual harassment from overlookers or senior foremen. Women weavers also faced intensifying work loads, arbitrary fines, and pressure from overlookers eager for higher output to win bonuses. (90) Through the ritual of sunning, they may have been renegotiating their position with male co-workers and especially with the weaving overlookers upon whom weavers depended to keep their looms in repair. These overlookers, always men, had once been weavers and usually enjoyed lifetime employment at one mill. (91) Women weavers confronted overseers every day over the assignment of warps which determined their weekly wages. In addition, the general decline of apprenticeships in late nineteenth-century English industries created a pool of undisciplined youths, eager to earn wages in semi-skilled jobs. (92) Women weavers certainly wished to fend off disrespect from the cheeky boys among whom the overlookers recruited their assistants. The threatening power of female sexuality, exercised collectively, openly, and dramatically, was a reminder to all that the private world of sexuality and the workplace were deeply intertwined but not always at the expense of women.

Hedley Smith rooted his Briardale stories in the immigrant villages of North Providence but not inside the factories on which those communities depended and where textile workers primarily experienced the intersection of class, gender, and culture. His vision of Briardale is a rich deposit of the persistent uses of Yorkshire dialect and social customs to counter the traditional "invisibility" of English immigrants and provide evidence on the experiences of courtship and sexuality in ethnic culture. But Smith was never a textile worker; his father had been an artisan craftsman. Women weavers, such as his mother and grandmother, were not welcome in Yorkshire trade unionism. Employed as an accountant and business manager, Smith's fiction explores class structure but not outright class conflict or labor activity. Still the Rhode Island data on strike activities in 1906-1913 suggest that the migration of Yorkshire worsted workers loosened the strict sexual division of labor, increased the age of female workers, and opened new opportunities for them in labor protest. (93) Yorkshire migrants working in the early twentieth-century mill villages of Rhode Island found themselves pitted against a hostile Yankee society, whose leaders ran the state and most of its economic enterprises. Smith explored the themes of cultural and mutual class antagonism in his fiction. (94)

Working-class Yorkshire immigrants both in Hedley Smith's Briardale stories and as labor activists in North Providence mill villages regarded themselves as culturally distinct from and vastly superior to American values and New England mill practices. In return Yankee disdain for working-class English immigrants produced an ethnic slur distinct to southern New England: "jick" or "jickey." (95) It demeaned both Yorkshire and Lancashire immigrants in Rhode Island's cotton and worsted textile mills as ignorant, dialect-speaking vulgarians. Ethnic slurs mark the social visibility of English immigrants, but these insults may also have been a reaction to the vibrant trade unionism of English immigrants in both cotton and woolen manufacture in southeastern New England. (96) Historians James Barrett and David Roediger probe the contexts of ethnic slurs and racialization and suggest that cultural insults [as in the case of jickey] sometimes had "far more to do with class than with ethnic identity." (97) Briardale's mill workers returned Yankee scorn in rich measure by their contempt for American beer and "shoddy" worsted cloth. (98) As labor activists in North Providence, they seemed not only indifferent to American racialized ethnic distinctions, especially the extreme racialization of Italian workers in New England, but demonstrated their willingness to join with these and other immigrant groups to achieve mutual class aims. (99) Having been themselves racialized as "ignorant jickeys," they seemed able to step outside, at least in 1912-1913, the racial heritage of British imperialism. But with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Yorkshire migrants shifted their energies to homeland mobilization, fierce patriotism, and the assertion of a more exclusive "English" identity. During the "Great War," the political allegiances of migratory Yorkshire people, who either left to serve in the British military or stayed in Rhode Island and sent donations, strengthened their connections to the Old Country. Certainly this was the case in the Briardale fiction. (100)

Hedley Smith sought to capture the culture of Yorkshire migrant people in the early twentieth century, although his middle-class values dictated many of his interests. Customs involving assertive female sexuality among the Yorkshire working class, such as the sunning ritual, represented a response to specific circumstances in the turn of the twentieth century worsted industry that reflected the antagonistic relationships of class and sex. However, the general shift in women's jobs and expectations during the interwar years of the twentieth century resulted in new articulations of female sexuality and the specifics of behavior. Judy Giles suggests that "playing hard to get" as a strategy for accommodating female sexuality with respectability offered some English working-class women an active measure of self-assertion and identification. (101) Yorkshire working women, who became far more organized into textile unions by 1914, may have experienced this shift.

The history of sexuality has been primarily interpreted in a middle-class context, often embedded in the private world of family life. Female agency involved in Anglo-American sexual customs and gender conflicts, reenacted in the fictional Rhode Island mill village of "Briardale" and verified in Yorkshire memoirs, provides suggestive evidence on the historic experiences of working-class sexuality. The behaviors and customs of Yorkshire working-class women reveal their uses of individual and collective activities to define their female adulthood and to confront on their own terms both gender and class conflicts in the family, the workplace, and the trade union. Literary texts carefully interpreted within appropriate primary sources and historiographical contexts may reveal additional behaviors among other marginalized workers, under-represented in formal labor activities and hidden from view.

Department of History

Lowell, MA 01854

Mary-Blewett@uml.edu

ENDNOTES

My thanks to Carol Morgan, Suzy Sinke, Peter Blewett, Felicity Harrison, Joanna Bornat, and the two anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions and helpful comments. For a fuller analysis of Yorkshire migrants in New England and the literature of Hedley Smith, see Mary H. Blewett, Migration Lived and Imagined (Urbana, forthcoming).

1. Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality Since 1800 (London, 1981), pp. 57-9, 61.

2. Patrick Joyce, Work, Society and Politics: The Culture of the Factory in Later Victorian England (Brighton, 1980).

3. Rudolph Vecoli called for more clarification of the lived and imagined culture of ethnicity in "Comment: We Study the Present to Understand the Past," The Journal of American Ethnic History 18 (Summer 1999): 115-25. Historians find evidence on migrant working- class female sexual agency elusive, for example, Christine Harzig, "The Role of German Women in the German-American Working-Class Movement in Late Nineteenth-Century New York," Journal of American Ethnic History (Spring, 1989): 87-107.

4. Hedley Smith published two collections of short stories The Yankee Yorkshireman (1970), More Yankee Yorkshiremen (1974) and one novella, Yankee Yorkshirewomen (1978) at Harlo Press, Detroit, MI, which published ethnic fiction. Smith wrote over a dozen unpublished novellas, including a three-part trilogy "The Millmaster," "The Tongue-Tied Town," and "The Lion and the Eagle" set in his fictional mill village of "Briardale." The published work, correspondence with his publisher, a transcript of the 1997 taped interview with his children, and the cited e-mails are in the archives of the American Textile History Museum, Lowell, MA. The published and unpublished work remain the property of Portia Thompson, Wakefield, RI and of Duncan Smith, Professor Emeritus, Department of German Studies, Brown University, Providence, RI and are quoted with their permission, e-mails, Nov. 16, 19, 2002.

5. Smith who had passed the eleven plus exams in Yorkshire was refused admission to high school, 1997 interview.

6. See "English Village in Rhode Island," Providence Tribune, Nov. 15, 1912.

7. E-mail, Portia Smith Thompson, Feb. 10, 2002.

8. Rowland T. Berthoff, British Immigrants in Industrial America, 1790-1950 (Cambridge, 1953) and Charlotte Erickson, Invisible Immigrants: The Adaptation of English and Scottish Immigrants in 19th-Century America (Ithaca, NY, 1990 reprint of 1972 edition) and Leaving England: Essays on British Emigration in the Nineteenth Century (Ithaca, NY, 1994).

9. Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (Seattle, 1997), pp. ix-xii and chapter 6. Also see Steven Vertovec and Robin Cohen, eds., Migration, Disaporas and Transnationalism (Cheltenham, UK, 1999), pp. xiii-xxvi, especially p. xxi. Although his work focuses on migration during the 1990s, Cohen explicitly questions whether the nation state was ever historically able to contain "the wider socialities" it sought to represent.

10. Cohen, Global Diasporas, pp. ix-xii.

11. For recent work on gender and the family in immigration, Suzanne M. Sinke, Dutch Immigrant Women in the United States, 1880-1920 (Urbana, IL, 2002). Especially relevant for this paper is Monika Blaschke's exploration of the life experiences of farm maids, their refusal to allow legal restrictions on marriage to control their sexuality or emigration, and local rituals with sexual overtones in "'No Way but Out': German Women in Mecklenburg," pp. 35-42 in Christiane Harzig, ed., Peasant Maids--City Women: From the European Countryside to Urban America (Ithaca, NY, 1997).

12. Karen Majewski argued in Traitors and True Poles: Narrating a Polish-American Identity, 1880-1939 (Columbus, OH, 2003) that Polish language literature offered the possibility to the "community for reading itself as Polish in an American context," p. 11. Majewski's analysis of "Love, Sex, and the State of Marriage" in chapter 6 demonstrates that marriage and sexuality in the "ethnic romance" is often a metaphor for sustaining national authenticity, pp. 122-44.

13. Daniel Bender, "'Too Much of Distasteful Masculinity': Historicizing Sexual Harassment in the Garment Sweatshop and Factory," Journal of Women's History, 15 (Winter, 2004): 91-116.

14. These sources include James Burnley, Phases of Bradford Life: A Series of Pen and Ink Sketches (Bradford, UK, 1871) and Looking for the Dawn: A Tale of the West Riding, (London, 1874, reprinted New York, 1986); J. B. Priestley, Margin Released: A Writer's Reminiscences and Reflections (London, 1963); Maggie Newbery, Picking Up the Threads: The Complete Reminiscences of a Bradford Mill Girl, edited by James Ogden (Bradford, UK, 1993); Elizabeth K. Blackburn, In and Out the Windows: A Story of the Changes in Working Class Life 1902-1977 in a Small East Lancashire Community (Burnley, UK, 1978); Ben Turner, About Myself, 1863-1930 (London, 1930); James Lawson, Letters to the Young on Progress In Pudsey During the Last Sixty Years (Stanningley, UK, 1887).

15. For the dismissal of "book nonsense," see the characters of Joth Booth, "The Conscience of Mr. King," p. 20, and Ruth Binns, "Squire Widdop's Wooing," pp. 37-8, The Yankee Yorkshireman and David Greaves, "The Wise Child," pp. 56, 63-4, More Yankee Yorkshiremen. For condemnation of "wedding" out of class, see Aunt Sarah Jane Denby, "Wedding Dress," p. 112, The Yankee Yorkshireman.

16. "Squire Widdop's Wooing," The Yankee Yorkshireman, pp. 37-8, 42-8. Karl Ittmann's study of declining fertility in Bradford based on data between 1851and 1881 discussed turn of the twentieth-century working-class knowledge of birth control and abortion including the uses of "penny royal" and other herbal substances and the general availability of information on sexuality among female worsted workers, Work, Gender and Family in Victorian England (New York, 1995), pp. 230-3. Also see, Weeks, Sex, Politics and Society, pp. 69-72 and Patricia Knight, "Women and Abortion in Victorian and Edwardian England," History Workshop Journal, no. 4 (Autumn 1977):62-3.

17. Karl Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family in Victorian England (New York, 1995), pp. 152, note # 56, 230-5. Working wives with families in Burnley, Lancashire, practiced similar family limitation, Diana Gittins, The Fair Sex: Family Size and Structure in Britain, 1900-1939 (New York, 1982), pp. 87-94, 158-165.

18. Knight, Women and Abortion," pp. 57-70.

19. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 17-18. The "safe period" in the female fertility cycle was however misunderstood and useless for birth control, Knight, "Women and Abortion," p. 59.

20. Priestley, Margin Released, p. 11.

21. Priestley, Margin Released, pp. 59-60.

22. Priestley, Margin Released, p. 60.

23. Elizabeth who entered the mills at thirteen in 1915 could observe the mill at night because her father also served as watchman and the family occupied housing on the mill grounds, Blackburn, In and Out Windows, pp. 9-10, 29.

24. Blackburn, In and Out the Windows, pp. 21, 29.

25. Turner, About Myself, pp. 62-3.

26. Lawson, Progress in Pudsey, "Courtship and Love-Making" and "Old Time Weddings," pp. 29-39, especially p. 36.

27. "Coortin Days," John Hartley, Yorkshire Lyrics: Poems Written in the Dialect as Spoken in the West Riding of Yorkshire (London, 1898), pp. 35-6.

28. Newbury, Picking Up the Threads, pp. 12-52.

29. Newbury, Picking Up the Threads, pp. 42-3, 54-61, quote, p. 60.

30. Maggie went into domestic service, Newbury, Picking Up the Threads, pp. 121-2.

31. Phyllis Bentley to Hedley Smith, Oct. 10, 1974, possession of author. On Bentley, Eric Ford, "Phyllis Bentley: Novelist of Yorkshire Life," Contemporary Review v. 270 (Feb 1997): 89-94.

32. For example, Andrew Davies's study based on early twentieth- century oral history and other sources in Lancashire, Leisure, Gender, and Poverty: Working-Class Culture in Salford and Manchester, 1900-1939 (Buckingham, UK, 1992), ignores sexuality, while Stephen G. Jones, Workers At Play: A Social and Economic History of Leisure, 1918-1939 (London, 1986) equates "leisure" with cinema, church, drink, gambling, holidays, sport, hobbies, magazines, and clubs but does not discuss sexual activities in dancehalls or courtship. James Hammerton's Cruelty and Companionship: Conflict in Nineteenth-century Married Life (London, 1992) remains the best study of English working-class marriage, see chapters 1, 2. Hammerton used dialect poetry and prose as well as newspapers and court records to probe the nature of turn of the century marital conflicts based on male violence.

33. Elizabeth Roberts, A Woman's Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890-1940 (Oxford, 1984), p. 88.

34. Jan Lambertz, "Sexual Harassment in the Nineteenth Century English Cotton Industry," History Workshop Journal, no. 19 (Spring 1985): 48.

35. Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, pp. 6, 141-2, 129, see note # 168, 232-3.

36. See the descriptions of Bessie King, "The Conscience of Mr. King," p. 15, of Emma Briggs (perhaps based on Smith's mother), "Uprooted," p. 57, and of Bertha Stott, "The Black Sheep," p. 74 in The Yankee Yorkshireman. Also the description of Cissie Petty, Yankee Yorkshirewomen, p. 8.

37. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 74-5.

38. A perceptive reviewer of Smith's second collection of short stories suggested that like D.H. Lawrence, Smith understood that sexual attachments were the glue that bonded society, Gordon E. Rowley, The Observer (Scituate. RI), November 28, 1974. Also, e-mail, Duncan Smith, Sept. 3, 2005.

39. Sian Moore, "Women, Industrialization and Protest in Bradford, West Yorkshire, 1780-1845" (Ph.D. diss., University of Essex, 1986), p. 61.

40. Frank Mort, Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1830 (London, 1987), pp. 47-49.

41. Yorkshire Factory Times, February 14, December 19, 1890.

42. Cotton Factory Times, August 2, 1907, courtesy of Alan Fowler.

43. Lambertz, "Sexual Harassment in the Nineteenth Century English Cotton Industry," pp. 29-61.

44. See Ittmann, Work, Gender, and Family, pp. 141-64.

45. For the quote and the general acceptance of paternalism along the lines of Saltaire in the West Riding, D. James, "Paternalism in Mid-Nineteenth Century Keighley, pp. 104-119, esp. 107, and R. Reynolds, "Reflections on Saltaire," pp. 43-72 in J. A. Jowitt, Model Industrial Communities in Mid-Nineteenth Century Yorkshire (Bradford, UK, 1986).

46. Lawson, Progress in Pudsey, pp. 35-6. James Burnley's sentimental 1874 novel about Chartist activity in Yorkshire, Looking for the Dawn, also depicted casual night-time courtships of lads and lasses in the countryside.

47. Reynolds, "Reflections," in Jowitt, Model Industrial Communities, pp. 46-50, 55.

48. On Salt, Reynolds, "Reflections," in Jowitt, Model Industrial Communities, pp. 46-50 and on middle-class views of female working-class sexuality, Jane Lewis, Women in England, 1870-1950: Sexual Divisions and Social Change (Bloomington, IN, 1984), pp. 127-8, 184-93.

49. Burnley, "A Day in the Mill," Phases of Bradford Life, p. 195. Also see, Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, pp. 149-53.

50. Burnley, "The Dance Halls," "Out in the Streets All Night," Phases of Bradford Life, pp. 196-99, 105.

51. Joanna Bornat, "Lost Leaders: Women, Trade Unionism and the Case of the General Union of Textile Workers, 1875-1914," in Angela V. John, ed., Unequal Opportunities: Women's Employment in England, 1800-1918 (London, 1986) pp. 207-33.

52. Tony Jowitt, "The Retardation of Trade Unionism in the Yorkshire Worsted Textile Industry," J. A Jowitt and A.J McIvor, eds., Employers and Labour in the English Textile Industries, 1850-1939 (London, 1988), pp. 84-106.

53. June Hannam, "'In the Comradeship of the Sexes Lies the Hope of Progress and Social Regeneration': Women in the West Riding ILP, c. 1890-1914," in Jane Rendall, ed., Equal or Different: Women's Politics, 1800-1914 (Oxford, 1987), pp. 224-5.

54. Nicola Reader, Ph.D. candidate, University of Leeds, work in progress, cited by permission, e-mail, March 16, 2005.

55. Joanna Bornat, "'What About That Lass of Yours Being in the Union?': Textile Workers and Their Union in Yorkshire, 1888-1922," in Leonore Davidoff and Belinda Westover, eds., Our Work, Our Lives, Our Words (Totowa, NJ, 1986), pp. 90-6.

56. Deirdre Busfield, "Skill and the Sexual Division of Labour in the West Riding Textile Industry, 1850-1914," in Employers and Labour, pp. 153-170.

57. Ittmann, Gender, Work and Family, p. 163.

58. Bornat, "Lost Leaders," pp. 207-233, and Maria Bottomley, "Women and Industrial Militancy: The 1875 Heavy Woolen Dispute," in Employers and Labour, pp. 171-86.

59. Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, pp. 202-22, 234-5.

60. Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, pp. 203, 209.

61. Jowitt, "Retardation," in Employers and Labour, p. 102.

62. Busfield, "Skill and the Sexual Division of Labour," in Employers and Labour, pp. 154-6.

63. Maria Bottomley, "Women and Industrial Militancy: The Heavy Woolen Dispute," in Employers and Labour, pp. 176-7, 184.

64. J. Reynolds, "Reflections on Saltaire," in Jowitt, Model Industrial Communities, p. 57 and Jack Reynolds, The Great Paternalist: Titus Salt and the Growth of Nineteenth-Century Bradford (New York, 1983), pp. 317-21.

65. Bradford Observer, August 14, 22, 24, 25, 26, 31, September 1, 2, 1882.

66. Mary H. Blewett, "Diversities of Class Experience and the Shaping of Labor Politics: Yorkshire's Manningham Mills Strike, 1890-1891 and the Independent Labour Party," forthcoming in Labor History 47 (November 2006): 511-35.

67. See photograph between pp. 128 and 129 in Ben Turner's, Short History of the General Union of Textile Workers (Heckmonewike, Yorkshire, 1920) of the 1891 Manningham strike committee with sixteen women and eleven men.

68. Bradford Observer, Jan. 7, 1891; Turner, Short History, pp. 139-41.

69. E. P. Thompson, "Homage to Tom Maguire," Essays in Labour History, Asa Briggs and John Saville, eds., (London, 1960): 276-315; J. Reynolds and K. Laybourn, "The Emergence of the Independent Labour Party in Bradford," International Review of Social History 20, 3 (1975): 313-46 and Keith Laybourn, "The Manningham Mills Strike, December 1890 to April 1891," in D. James, T. Jowitt, and K. Laybourn, The Centennial History of the Independent Labour Party (Halifax, 1992), pp. 117-36.

70. Bornat in "Lost Leaders," in Unequal Opportunities, pp. 216-8, 221, 228. For a more optimistic view based on middle-class feminist activism in Leeds and Bradford, see Hannam, "'In the Comradeship of the Sexes," pp. 214-38, esp. 237-8.

71. For the passionate, experienced nature of Yorkshire mill lasses' sexuality, see Emma Briggs in "Uprooted," p. 65, Emily Waddington, "Wedding Dress," pp. 104, 108-110, Martha Hobson and Emily Binns in "Squire Widdop's Wooing," pp. 31, 52, The Yankee Yorkshireman, Barbara Craven in "The Partnership," p. 39 and Sally Greaves in "The Wise Child", pp. 78-9, More Yankee Yorkshiremen, and as cited below in the typescript, "The Mill Folk." For calculating and prudish Yankee women, see "The Lion and The Eagle," typescript, pp. 92-94, 109-10, 114.

72. An overlooker is a foreman. Knowles is referring to Minetta Sweet, in "The Wise Child," More Yankee Yorkshiremen, pp. 58, 74.

73. 1997 interview.

74. E-mail, Portia Thompson, September 26, 2000.

75. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 28-37.

76. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 170-1.

77. Priestley, Margin Released, pp. 60-61.

78. Priestley, Margin Released, p. 61.

79. Ittmann briefly noted the ritual of sunning and female bawdy conduct as "sexual antagonism," Work, Gender and Family, pp. 224, 232-3.

80. Daniel Bender, e-mail, Sept. 15, 2003.

81. Such boisterous behavior in pre-factory mill villages occurred only among men and boys except for women's participation in "Riding the Steng," part of the Yorkshire charivari tradition, Lawson, "Manners, Customs, Sports and Pastimes," Progress in Pudsey, pp. 74-85.

82. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 72-75.

83. English historians, such as James Hammerton, have applied the nineteenth-century term "rough usage" almost exclusively to male actors.

84. Sinke, Dutch Immigrant Women, p. 4.

85. Busfield, "Skill and the Sexual Division of Labour" in Employers and Labour, pp. 153-70, esp. pp. 163-5; Jacquelyn Dowd Hall, et. al., Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World (Chapel Hill, NC, 1987), pp. 67-72.

86. Laurence Gross, The Course of Industrial Decline: The Boott Cotton Mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, 1835-1955 (Baltimore, 1993), p. 66; e-mail, September 5, 2005, Larry Gross to author.

87. My thanks to Felicity Harrison for this insight.

88. Smith, "The Mill Folk," pp. 72-5.

89. Memo of personal conversation with Bart De Wilde, participant in Global Textile Workers conference, Amsterdam, November 2004. See his, Witte boorden, blauke kielen: patroons en arbeiders in de belgische textieInijverheid in de 19e en 20e eeuw, [Belgium]: Ludion: AMSAB: Profortex, 1997.

90. Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, pp. 57-66, 136-7, 153.

91. Ittmann, Work, Gender and Family, p. 63.

92. Michael J. Childs, "Boy Labour in late Victorian and Edwardian England and the Remaking of the Working Class," Journal of Social History 23, 4 (Summer 1990): 783-803.

93. On labor conflicts, Providence Daily Journal, Nov. 23-24, 1912; Jan. 11, 12, 14, 16-17, 21, 24-25, 28, 30; Feb. 7, 12, 17-19, 28; April 4-7, 15, 1913; Providence Bulletin, Jan 11, 13, 1913; Labor Advocate (Providence weekly), Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26, Feb. 19, 23, Mar. 23, 30, April 12, 1913; and Rhode Island Commission for Industrial Statistics, Twenty-Seventh Annual Report (1914), pp. 92-6, 108, 110.

94. For middle-class antagonisms, see Smith, The Lion and the Eagle," unpublished novella.

95. The term appears as "the Jickeys" in Smith's "The Wise Child," p. 60, More Yankee Yorkshiremen. Also see "jicki," as used in southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island textile centers in the 1930s and 1940s, Dictionary of American Regional English, Frederic G. Cassidy, ed., v. III (Cambridge, MA 1996), pp. 128-9.

96. On Lancashire immigrants in Rhode Island, Paul Buhle, "The Knights of Labor in Rhode Island," Radical History Review 17 (Spring, 1978): 39-73; Mary H. Blewett, Constant Turmoil: The Politics of Industrial Life in Nineteenth-Century New England (Amherst, 2000), Chapter 7.

97. James R. Barrett and David Roediger, "Inbetween Peoples: Race, Nationality and the 'New Immigrant' Working Class," Journal of American Ethnic History (Spring 1997): 3-44, esp. pp. 7-9.

98. For references to shoddy meaning adulterated worsted made of cotton and wool, "Squire Widdop's Wooing," The Yankee Yorkshireman pp. 33-4, and "The Mill Folk." "Middle-class Yorkshire immigrants often expressed scorn for American ways, "King George's Idea," in More Yankee Yorkshiremen, pp. 86, 89.

99. On the racialization of Italian immigrants, Barrett and Roediger, "Inbetween Peoples," p. 22 and Ardis Cameron, Radicals of the Worst Sort: Laboring Women in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1860-1912 (Urbana, IL, 1993), pp. 130-1.

100. "The Wise Child," pp. 59-63, 66, More Yankee Yorkshiremen; Yankee Yorkshirewomen, pp. 31-3, and as the major theme of the novella "The Lion and the Eagle" and "The Tongue-tied Town."

101. Judy Giles, "'Playing Hard to Get': Working-Class Women, Sexuality and Respectability in Britain, 1918-1940," Women's History Review, I (Spring 1992): 239-55.

By Mary Blewett

University of Massachusetts, Lowell
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Title Annotation:SECTION I SEXUALITY AND GENDER
Author:Blewett, Mary
Publication:Journal of Social History
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Date:Dec 22, 2006
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