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Women in Milling Timeline

The Mills Archive Trust and the UK Flour Millers have joined forces to explore and celebrate the many and varied contributions women have made to the milling industry.

 

In our timeline we learn about trailblazers such the formidable Margery Kempe who launched her own brewing and milling empire in medieval Norfolk; and of the many thousands of women whose largely unsung contribution kept Britain from going hungry during the two World Wars, alongside the social and economic reality for women of the time.

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2500 BC

A small, sculpted model of a female servant from Ancient Egypt. She is shown kneeling at a grooved stone surface, upon which she grinds a stone back and forth, crushing the grain (“Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years”, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, 1994 p204)

1490 BC

Evidence of pestle and mortar use to crush grain

1090 AD

The Domesday Book – listed 5,624 watermills

1174

Rohesia, sister of Thomas Becket, received King’s Mill (a watermill), also known as Eastbridge Mill, from King Henry II as he sought her forgiveness

1185

Earliest written references to windmills in England: one an existing mill at Weedley, Yorkshire, and the other to a mill built in 1180 at Amberley, Sussex (“The Mills of Medieval England”, Richard Holt, 1988 and

1180s

Agnes of Mountchesney made donations to Benedictine nuns and included the  donation of her windmill to the Abbey

1200 (approx.)

Beatrice of Somerton donated her windmill to Hickling Priory

1200

Emma and Philip Burnham acquired land to build a post mill

1243

John of the Mills charged Agnes of Staines and her husband, Martin of Feltham, with using a handmill to grind their grain, therefore denying him the multure (grain or flour to be paid to a miller in return for grinding grain in the miller’s mill) they owed him

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Women in Milling Timeline

1348 Black Death

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1529

Joan Roundell granted a 20-year lease for three windmills, and a long lease for another 4 years later, after her husband died

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1373 (approx.)

Margery Kempe - pilgrim, vision-seer, mill owner and the first woman about whom a biography was written - was born

1567

The Goodmans took five millers – including a woman, Margaret Bavand – to court, accusing them of grinding corn taken out of the city to the detriment of Dee mills. Margaret was the only miller to give a defence, which was unsuccessful. She continued in spite of the ruling until she was forced to cease milling in 1570

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Women in Milling Timeline

1642 - 51 English Civil War

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1715

Sybilla Righton Masters (1676 – 1720) was the first woman to be granted a patent by George III for milling corn

1759

Mary Dobell – mill owner, tallow chandler, mother and bankrupt – was born

1792

Mary Wollstonecraft publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Women

1814

Windmill in the town of Skeerness was completed (commissioned by Mary Dobell)

1819

(11/10) Mary Dobell declared bankrupt and creditors took over her mill at Cranbrook

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1793

Sarah Robertson, miller of Sprowston, was born

1796

Charlotte Tuffnell, miller of Chesham, was born

1815

Implementation of the Corn Laws – tariffs on imported food and grain

1832

Great Reform Act – only men could vote

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1838

People’s Charter (one man one vote)

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1848

Factory Act – women and children could only work 10 hours a day in textile factories

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1850

Sarah Robertson & Son was listed in the Norwich Trade Directory (Sarah was a miller, along with two of her sons)

1837

Queen Victoria comes to the throne

1846

Corn Laws repealed

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Women in Milling Timeline

1853-56 Crimean War

(the first war in which women were properly organised as nurses to go out and serve the army. Both Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole served.)

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1860s

Beginning of organised activity in support of votes for women; this steps up in the 1880s

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1878

Henry Gustav Simon introduced a roller flour milling plant for McDougall Brothers in Manchester; beginning the roller flour mill revolution in the British flour industry

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1880

Three women are awarded degrees by University of London – first degrees to be awarded to women by a British university

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1878

Law bans women from working more than 56 hours per week

1891

Another milling journal, Milling, was first published in the UK

1867

Act forbids women to work more than 10 hours per day in any factory

1867

Second Reform Act – doubled the electorate enabling one third of adult men to vote, but still no women

1868

Women are first admitted to university in Britain but are awarded ‘proficiency certificates’ not degrees

1869

John Stuart Mill publishes The Subjugation of women

1870s

First roller mill originating in Hungary in the late 1870s; this new process involved passing the grain between sets of rotating metal rollers or “rolls”

1880

(16/10) Mary Ann Yates Corkling created the Bread Reform League in England

1890s

First flour milling examinations, overseen by City & Guilds

1905

Doris Grant, British nutritionist who invented the national wartime loaf, was born

1873

Milling journal The Miller was first published in the UK and The Northwestern Miller first published in the USA

1878

The National Association of British and Irish Millers (nabim) was formed for ‘mutual advancement and protection’ in the light of the ‘great changes which are now in progress in the manufacture of flour, and in the machinery used for that purpose’.

1888

Women are allowed to vote in county and borough elections

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1913

Death of suffragette Emily Davidson when she ran in front of the king’s horse at the Epsom Derby

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1891

British entomologist, Eleanor Omerod successfully discovered the means to control the mill moth. Her body of work on injurious insects and farm pests was vast and recognised the world over and included an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1900 – the first woman to receive such an honour. In 2017 the University of Edinburgh named their research cloud computing service “Eleanor” after her.

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Women in Milling Timeline

1914-18 World War I

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1914

c.2 million women replaced men at their jobs – working on the land, in transport, hospitals, industry and engineering as well as taking on clerical roles.

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1916

Ivy Hawkins begins milling with her father Henry at Redbournbury watermill in Hertfordshire

1928

Equal Franchise Act: All women over 21 are allowed same voting rights as men

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1936

Mrs H. Dickinson of Thunderbridge takes over the family mill after her husband’s death; working alone, she ground a ton of corn a day.

1915

The UK milling industry funded the provision of two hospital trains to take wounded soldiers from the Front to Calais at a cost of £26,000. The trains were labelled, “The Gift of the Millers of the UK”.

1916

Factory Inspector’s report on women in the workplace: ‘It is permissible to wonder whether some of the surprise and admiration freely expressed in many quarters over new proofs of women’s physical capacity and endurance, is not in part attributable to lack of knowledge or appreciation of the very heavy and strenuous nature of much of normal pre-war work for women, domestic and industrial.’

1918

Representation of the People Act: Women over 30 allowed to vote if they meet property qualifications

1919

Certain professions are opened to women: they can be solicitors, barristers, vets and chartered accountants; they are also allowed to be magistrates and members of juries

1932

Ivy Hawkins and her mother run the mill at Redbournbury, after Ivy’s father dies

1939

(June) Pamphlet produced by the Transport & General Workers Union lists jobs permitted for women in mills and associated wages: ‘Work in the sack shop, including sack sewing machines’, ‘Packing small bags under sixty pounds in weight’, ‘Sweeping’, ‘Cleaning (machinery excepted)’, and ‘Messroom attendance’.

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Women in Milling Timeline

1939-45 World War II

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1939

Women’s Land Army (founded during WW1) was revived; at its peak there were 80,000 members replacing male agricultural workers who had been conscripted.

1944

“Reinstatement of Civil Employment Act, 1944” – the introduction of this Act meant that employees had the right to the pre-war job they had before fighting in the War. This had an impact on those women who had taken on some of those jobs during the War, and now faced pressure to leave

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