Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Women's Work 1863 - US Women as Root, Bark, & Seed Gatherers.

Women Gathering Roots? Engraved by R D Havell after George Walker Published by Robinson and Son Leeds

When the grass is bowed by the sparkling dew, & the hills shrouded in mist, plants exhale most freely their sweet odors. They are then gathered & sold to manufacturers, who prepare from them oils, essences, & perfumeries. 

An old Quaker lady on Tenth street, Philadelphia, keeping an herb store, told me that she purchases her herbs mostly of men, but some women do bring them to sell. 

It requires a knowledge of botany to gather them, & the stage of the moon must be observed. Digging roots, & gathering plants, at all seasons, is a hard business. 

At another herb store, Í learned that the prices paid gatherers depend much on the kind of herb, the difficulty of obtaining it, & the season when it is gathered. A woman may earn $1 a week, or she may earn as much as $10. 

The roots & herbs are bought by weight. Many are purchased fresh in market, but some of the gatherers dry them. They are sent from different parts of the Union to the cities & towns. One told me that she would rather purchase herbs & seed put up by women, for they are neater & more careful with their work. She sells most in spring & fall. An Indian doctress told me barks must be gathered in the spring & fall, when they are full of sap; & roots, when the leaves are faded or dead. She sometimes makes $20 worth of syrup in a day. She says the business requires some knowledge of plants, experience in the times of gathering, amount of drying, &c. 

The Employments of Women: A Cyclopaedia of Woman's Work by Virginia Panny Published Boston, MA. by Walker, Wise & Company. 1863

To read about women's changing roles in the 2nd half of the 19th century. see:
Boorstin, Daniel. The Americans: The Democratic Experience. New York:Random House, 1973.
Clinton, Catherine. The Other Civil War: American Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984.
Cott, Nancy. A Heritage of Her Own: Toward a New Social History of Women. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1979.
Cott Nancy. History of Women in the United States, Part 6, Working the Land. New York: K. G. Saur, 1992.
Degler, Carl. At Odds: Women and the Family from Revolution to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Green, Harvey. The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1983.
Juster, Norton. So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America 1865-1895. New York: The Viking Press, 1979.
Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage Earning Women in the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982
Mintz, Stephen and Susan Kellogg. Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan, 1988.
Ryan, Mary P. Womanhood in America front he Colonial Times to the Present. New York: F. Watts, 1983.
Smith-Rosenberg, Caroll. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Strasser, Susan. Never Done: A History of American Housework. New York Pantheon Books, 1982.
Welter, Barbara. Dimity Convictions : the American Woman in the Nineteenth Century. Athens : Ohio University Press, 1976.