Looking back through history, we can see women have been asked to do some jobs that range from slightly bizarre to absolutely necessary. These tasks, now a thing of the past (and thankfully so for a majority of them), were physically draining while others never gave the brain a moment’s rest.
The mining industry has been one that is known for its harsh working conditions, a reputation it’s been unable to shake for centuries. It’s common to see pictures and photos of men toiling underground, but women could be found on mining sites as well filling the role of bal maidens. These bal maidens (bal being the Cornish word for mining place) were in charge of the back-breaking task of dressing ore brought to the surface. From 1770-1860 it was a profession that was in high demand, and bal maidens could still be found in the mining world until the late 1920s when machines eliminated the need for them.
On a slightly less physically dangerous note, women of the 19th century were relied on as human computers. Numbers and equations had to be crunched, and ladies contributed with the brain power necessary to get the job done right. NASA is well-known for its reliance on human computers during the early years of the space race, even if some of these women weren’t always treated with the respect (or pay) they deserved.
Story by Jay Moon