Saturday 10 September 2011

There is a touch in her of the national manly character

A nice description of the bellicose nature of the Victorian dust-woman:-
"But though gross and animal to the last degree, and so unsexed that you doubt whether she even be a woman, yet there is a touch in her of the national manly character. When these women fight among themselves, which is pretty often, there is none of the scratching and hair-pulling which distinguishes the usual contests of the sex : they are manly even in their rage. They simply go to work exactly as men would do. The lookers-on form a ring, the principals have backers, and they set to work with closed fists, and fight as fairly as Tom Cribb would have done. In the last century, there were professional boxers of the female sex, who fought for money, just as the men do now ; but even these professionals do not appear to have conquered the female tendency to claw, as it was made a condition of each match, that the combatants should fight with money in their hands, which was forfeited to the opponent the moment it was dropped, thus providing against the use of the nails. But the modern dust-woman does not require this ingenious method of restraint, and she gives and takes with a gallantry and pluck, if we may use the term, which cannot be excelled by any member of the prize-ring. It is well to note even this spirit of fair play among them, for otherwise they form the lowest dregs, intellectually and morally, of the population.
You may, of course, also remember The Famous Stoke Newington Ass-Woman.


  1. Hello!
    I'm a graduate student in Victorian lit and I was wondering if you could direct me to the source of this quote about the dust-woman?

  2. DUST HO!, Good Words, 7 (1866:Sept.) p.645

  3. Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!