Category Archives: Victorian Britain

The Match Girls

Everyone knows the beginning of the age of industrialization in England was not pleasant. As more and more factories grew, people who lived in the countryside chose or were forced to move into towns for better-paid work.

People looking for work crowded into cities, which then became cesspools of disease and pollution.

Match makers

Matchstick making was incredibly popular in 19th century England, with hundreds of factories spread across the country. For 12 to 16 hours a day, workers dipped treated wood into a concoction of phosphorus before drying and cutting the sticks into matches. This was a particularly dirty job done mostly by women and children. It actually made them glow in the dark and it contributed to “phossy jaw” a disease as gross as it sounds – necrosis of the jaw bone caused by phosphorus poisoning.

I have been fascinated by the work of women and children in Victorian times, particularly in London as my ancestors lived in and around the sad streets of the east end. And today I found this in my mailbox –¬† It’s worth reading.

But in case you don’t have the time, Samantha Johnson’s Grandmother was one of the matchgirls who went on strike for better working conditions in July 1888. ”¬†Ultimately, 1400 girls and women marched out of the factory, en masse, on that fateful day of 5th July 1888. ” Bryant and May, the employers, accepted all their demands and apparently, working conditions were greatly improved.

I wonder how many other unsung women heroes there are.

And apologies for being MIA for so long. I will try hard to do better.