In the photographs of the Workhouse, which is also inconsistently also named the Infirmary, perhaps because the two buildings sit side by side, sharing an internal wall, there are a group of men who are known as inmates, or so it’s written here, or sometimes patients, as it’s written elsewhere. They work to make the crops grow, or to make themselves better, or a more complete man, or in order that they may eat, or in order that the workhouse can grow and take in more people to be cured, restored to work again, that the city stays in order, that the city can be cured.
People are awful surplus, old men with not even a belt to hold up their trousers, so they must use stolen rope, with not a voice to speak of them, not even to record the crime, not two pieces of paper that agree on what to call them. They are the shape the state needs. Almost. For belonging.
Either they weren’t sure what to call you or, waste matter, they thought that you must have several names. The Furies. Unkindly Ones. Unkin.
Certain sicknesses for certain times. Are you still sick, they ask each month, and then every six months, tell us how. Can you wash yourself, what work are you able to do then? You’re not prone, but we don’t know what to do with you, because, you see, you won’t tell us what to do with yourself. We haven’t invented the workhouse yet. Here we are in our past unpoliced, unpolicied state. Apply a sticking plaster to the surplus until something more robust can be constructed. Something with an inside, an outside, and a shared wall.
(NB The photo is of the Swansea workhouse, around the 1920s. The piece was inspired by a photograph of Crumpsall Workhouse, near Manchester, in 1897)
it is also about modern day workhouses. historically, men have had workplaces (factories) in which to meet & organize whereas women have been separated in our mini-factories (homes). even if we worked doubledays in both factories, we were on the clock to get home, making meetings at factory or pub, difficult to attend. that’s not to say we haven’t met & organized, but it’s not been as easy. is that partly why our work is still not valued? and online homeworkers? the web is our factory and our meeting ground but where is our work protection? and is there now a greater blur between doubleday jobs?
They’ve just put in an extension to rails to trails in our town. All of our rails to trails is sort of awesome because we’ve got this really nice trail that’s paved and has gravel on the side and there’s lots of joggers, and families with dogs, and cyclists, but then you’re walking through the old train line and on one side is the street with nice little houses, and on the other are all the old abandoned train stations, and outposts, and old workhouses. They don’t look terrible - they’re sort of the ‘run down’ that makes you go, “Oh cool!” instead of, “Wow ugly!”.
The best part is that I’m a fan of this wonderful trilogy by Eoin McNamee that takes place in Ireland about this boy named Owen who ends up going to these abandoned workhouses, and then time starts flowing backwards, and some crazy stuff goes down, and it’s EPIC. And basically, when I first moved to my town I used to imagine that the old workhouses were like the ones in the Navigator Trilogy. And now they’ve put in an extension to the trail, so I can actually go and explore all those areas where the workhouses are a bit more. And so that’s what I did this morning.
In the time that I’ve had in the last few days I decided to read up on something I heard mentioned a while ago.
The Northern General Hospital in Sheffield was apparently a workhouse.I pass this building on my way to training. I’ve been reading up on the history and day to day operations of workhouse in the UK. It’s pretty chilling reading.
Wet. A little better. A journey to Workhouse and then to St Pauls Station. Am too early, so I call in to see Miss Simpson.
Go to Dramatic class in the evening. Previous to going, I call in to Miss Brewer, who gives me another jar of Marmalade. Good soul!
At class we discuss new play and decide on “Doctor Wakes Patient”. I am cast for Mrs Wake and also for Queen Katherine in the Court Scene of Henry VIII. We are also asked to do the “Playgoers” again, Saturday March 13th. They have got several engagements for the “Walls of Jericho”.
Government enforced religious slavery in Workhouses (as in Charles Dickens) in Ireland until 17 years ago. That’s slave labor for the financial profit of the richest religious institution in the so called modern West until 1996.
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Okay why did Inspector Bucket not adopt the little boy?
Well, he basically did. He’s the boy’s legal guardian, which means he can take him out of the workhouse when he chooses. But, obviously, he couldn’t just take the boy in with him straight away because a) he’s not currently living at home (as a side note, where is Bucket living? In Lodgings somewhere? With Mr Venus?) but also b) because he’d need to talk it through with Mrs Bucket.. You can’t just go home to your partner with a kid in toe and say hey, so I’ve adopted this little’un, that’s alright isn’t it? Because it might be very much not alright.
Where was I going with this? Oh yeah. Bucket’s the kid’s legal guardian. The second he got back to wherever it is he’s staying he wrote to Mrs Bucket, explained the whole situation, and asked if she would object to him bringing the boy home with him.
If we never see the kid again for the rest of the series, we know she said yes and Bucket junior is having a great time helping out with the gardening.
Regardless of what the world thought of their union, Eliza [Jumel] could take pleasure in becoming a woman of means. The marriage was an extraordinary step upward in social status for someone who had lived in a workhouse and labored as a domestic servant. Children like Eliza who were bound to service because their parents were unable or unfitted to support them were at high risk of becoming poor transients as adults. Up to 40 percent of persons warned out of Rhode Island towns in the second half of the eighteenth century had been bound out in their youth by the overseers of the poor. In eighteenth-century Pennsylvania, 84 out of a group of 110 indentured servants—more than three-quarters—needed public assistance at least once during the thirty years after completing their service.
Scattered anecdotal reports about women apprenticed as servants in their youth suggest that they led modest and often difficult adult lives. Among the women who had been bound to Elizabeth Drinker of Philadelphia in childhood, at least two were impoverished in later years and a third married a blacksmith who didn’t always have stable employment. A fourth, Sally Brant—the girl who had borne an illegitimate child while serving out her indenture—later married but did not have an easy life, judging from Drinker’s subsequent references to her (in 1803, “poor Sall, she has her troubles,” and in 1806, “poor girl she has enough to do”). A grimmer example was an orphan girl bound out in Pennsylvania in 1759 who wasn’t even taught to read and write, although she had been promised those skills as part of the indenture. By the end of her service, a clergyman wrote, she had “been so completely debauched that she prefer[ red] to remain with her mistress” and was “satisfied with her brutish life.” In Providence, Rhode Island, the town councilors complained that bound-out girls were “entice[ d] away” from their masters into prostitution, “to the great injury of themselves and their employers.”
That virtually no eighteenth-century American women indentured in childhood have entered the historical record is a reflection of the difficulty they would have had in achieving the literacy necessary to leave memoirs or the training required to build successful careers. A rare exception is Deborah Sampson, born in Massachusetts in 1760 and bound out at the age of ten, several years after her father deserted the family. After completing her service, she disguised herself as a man to serve in the Continental army during the Revolutionary War. Later she gave lectures about her wartime experiences and became a minor celebrity regionally. But even for her, social mobility was limited. She married a small-town farmer and did not rise above the lower-middle class. Given the circumstances into which she was born, Eliza’s marriage to a wealthy man was strikingly unusual and possibly unique.
Margaret A. Oppenheimer: The Remarkable Rise of Eliza Jumel: A Story of Marriage and Money in the Early Republic (2015)
If you were to write a novel (your dream book), what would it be about?
Funny you should ask, because I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately!
1. Historical setting.
2. Female protagonist who finds her place in the world/purpose.
3. Romance may be involved, but will probably never be the focus of the story.
4. A mystery is uncovered.
5. Perhaps an element of magic, but not necessarily.
6. Solid characters. This is more imporant than anything else.
This morning’s plot bunny: a girl is taken from a London workhouse to work for the last known alchemist, who lives isolated in the country somewhere. He has a son, but the boy is impatient and for him, the craft is all about the end goal (the deadlier/flashier, the better), not about respect for the process. The alchemist finds out that the girl has a real knack for it, so he starts teaching her the tricks of the trade. The son is jealous and frustrated.
One day the son cracks and asks her if she never wonders what happened to the girl who worked for them before her. She does some investigating and finds out that the alchemist has been taking girls from workhouses for years so he can use them as his personal guinea pigs - no one misses a poor orphan. Somehow both the alchemist and his son die and the girl is the last alchemist left standing.
(There is also a side plot with a love potion gone wrong and accidental manslaughter.)