THE
Woman's Labour
AN
EPISTLE
TO
Mr. STEPHEN DUCK;
In ANSWER to his late Poem, called
T
HE THRESHER'S LABOUR.
To which are added,

The Three WISE SENTENCES,

TAKEN FROM

The Firſt Book of ESDRAS, Ch. III. and IV.

By MARY COLLIER,
Now a WASHER-WOMAN, at Petersfield in Hampſhire.
LONDON,
Printed for the AUTHOR ; and ſold by J. ROBERTS,
      in Warwick-lane ; and at the Pamphlet-Shops near
      the Royal Exchange. 1739.
Price Six-Pence






ADVERTISEMENT


IT is thought proper to aſſure the Reader, that the following Verſes are the real Productions of the Perſon to whom the Title-Page aſcribes them.

     THO She pretends not to the Genius of Mr. DUCK, nor hopes to be taken Notice of by the Great, yet her Friends are of Opinion that the Novelty of a Waſher-Woman's turning Poeteſs, will procure her ſome Readers.

     IF all that follow the ſame Employment would amuſe themſelves, and one another, during the tedious Hours of their Labour, in this, or ſome other Way as innocent, inſtead of toſſing Scandal to and fro, many Reputations would remain unwounded, and the Peace of Families be leſs diſturb'd.
A 2

ADVERTISEMENT.


          I THINK it no Reproach to the Author, whoſe Life is toilſome, and her Wages inconſiderable, to confeſs honeſtly, that the View of her putting a ſmall Sum of Money in her Pocket, as well as the Reader's Entertainment, had its Share of Influence upon this Publication. And ſhe humbly hopes ſhe ſhall not be abſolutely diſappointed  ; ſince, tho' ſhe is ready to own that her performance could be no Means ſtand a critical Examination, yet ſhe flatters herſelf that, with all its Faults and Imperfections, the candid Reader will judge it to be Something conſiderably beyond the common Capacity of thoſe of her own Rank and Occupation.



M. B.






THE

Woman's Labour:

TO

Mr. STEPHEN DUCK.



I MMORTAL Bard! thou Favrite of the Nine!
Enrich'd by Peers, advanc'd by CAROLINE!
Deign to look down on One that's poor and low
Remembering you yourſelf was lately ſo ;
Accept theſe Lines : Alas ! what can you have
From her, who ever was, and's ſtill a Slave?

B



[ 6 ]

No Learning ever was beſtow'd on me ;
My Live was always ſpent in Drudgery :
And not alone ; alas ! with Grief I find,
It is the Portion of poor Woman-kind.
Oft have I thought as on my Bed I lay,
Eas'd from the tireſome Labours of the Day,
Our firſt Extraction from a Maſs refin'd,
Could never be for Slavery deſign'd ;
Till Time and Cuſtom by degrees deſtroy'd
That happy State our Sex at firſt enjoy'd.
When Men had us'd their utmoſt Care and Toil,
Their Recompence was but a Female Smile ;
When they by Arts or Arms were render'd Great,
They laid their Trophies at a Woman's Feet ;
They, in thoſe Days, unto our Sex did bring
Their Hearts, their All, a Free-will Offering ;
And as from us their Being they derive,
They back again ſhould all due Homage give.

     JOVE once deſcending from the Clouds, did drop
In Show'rs of Gold on lovely Danae's Lap ;



[ 7 ]


The ſweet-tongu'd Poets, in thoſe generous Days,
Unto our Shrine ſtill offer'd up their Lays :
But now, alas ! that Golden Age is paſt,
We are the Objects of your Scorn at last.
And you, great DUCK, upon whoſe happy Brow
The Muſes ſeem to fix the Garland now,
In your late Poem boldly did declare
Alcides' Labours can't with your's compare ;
And of your annual Task have much to Say,
Of Threshing, Reaping, Mowing Corn and Hay ;
oaOting your daily Toil, and nightly Dream,
But can't conclude your never-dying Theme,
And let our hapleſs Sex in Silence lie
Forgotten, and in dark Oblivion die ;
But on our abject State you throw your Scorn
And Women wrong, your Verſes to adorn.
You of Hay-making ſpeak a Word or two,
As if our Sex but little Work could do :
This makes the honeſt Farmer ſmiling ſay,
He'll ſeek for Women ſtill to make his Hay ;
For if his Back be turn'd, their Work they mind
As well as Men, as far as he can find.

B 2



[ 8 ]


For my own Part, I many a Summer's Day
Have ſpent in throwing, turning, making Hay ;
But ne'er could ſee, what you have lately found,
Our Wages paid for ſitting on the Ground.
'Tis true, that when our Morning's Work is done,
And all our Graſs expos'd unto the Sun,
While that his ſcorching Beams do on it ſhine,
As well as you, we have a Time to dine :
I hope, that ſince we freely toil and ſweat
To earn our Bread, you'll give us Time to eat.
That over, ſoon we muſt get up again,
And nimbly turn our Hay upon the Plain ;
Nay, rake and prow it in, the Caſe is clear ;
Or how ſhould Cocks in equal Rows appear ?
But if you'd have what you have wrote believ'd,
I find, that you to hear us talk are griev'd :
In this, I hope, you do not ſpeak your Mind,
For none but Turks, that ever I could find,
Have Mutes to ſerve them, or did e'er deny
Their Slaves, at Work to chat it merrily.
Since you have Liberty to ſpeak your Mind,
And are to talk, as well as we, inclin'd



[ 9 ]


Why ſhould you thus repine, becauſe that we,
Like you, enjoy that pleaſing Liberty ??
What ! would you lord it quite, and take away
The only Privilege our Sex enjoy ?

     WHEN Ev'ning does approach, we homeward hie,
And our domeſtic Toils Inceſſant ply :
Againſt your coming Home prepare to get
Our Work all done, our Houſe in order ſet ;
Bacon and Dumpling in the Pot we boil,
Our Beds we make, our Swine we fee the while ;
Then wait at Door to ſee you coming Home,
And ſet the Table out againſt you come :
Early next Morning we on you attend ;
Our Children dreſs and feed, their Cloaths we mend ;
And in the Field our daily Task renew,
Soon as the riſing Sun has dry'd the Dew.

     WHEN Harveſt comes, into the Field we go,
And help to reap the Wheat as well as you ;
Or elſe we go the Ears of Corn to glean ;
No Labour ſcorning, be it e'er ſo mean ;



[ 10 ]


But in the Work we freely bear a Part,
And what we can, perform with all our Heart.
To get a Living we ſo willing are,
Our tender Babes into the Field we bear,
And wrap them in our Cloaths to keep them warm,
While round about we gather up the Corn ;
And often unto them our Courſe do bend,
To keep them ſafe, that nothing them offend :
Our Children that are able, bear a Share
In gleaning Corn, ſuch is our frugal Care.
When Night comes on, unto our Home we go,
Our Corn we carry, and our Infant too ;
Weary, alas ! but 'tis not worth our while
Once to complain, or reſt at ev'ry Stile ;
We must make haſte, for when we Home are come,
Alas ! we find our Work but juſt begun ;
So many Things for our Attendance call,
Had we ten Hands, we could employ them all.
Our Children put to Bed, with greateſt Care
We all Things for your coming Home prepare :
You ſup, and go to Bed without delay,
And reſt yourſelves till the enſuing Day ;



[ 11 ]


While we, alas ! but little Sleep can have,
Becauſe our froward Children cry and rave ;
Yet, without fail, ſoon as Day-light doth ſpring,
We in the Field again our Work begin
And there, with all our Strength, our Toil renew,
Till Titan's golden Rays have dry'd the Dew ;
Then home we go unto our Children dear,
Dreſs, feed, and bring them to the Field with care.
Were this your Caſe, you juſtly might complain
That Day nor Night you are ſecure from Pain ;
Thoſe mighty Troubles which perplex your Mind,
(Thiſtles before, and Females come behind)
Would vaniſh ſoon, and quickly diſappear,
Were you, like us, encumber'd thus with Care.
What you would have of us we do not know :
We oft' take up the Corn that you do mow ;
We cut the Peas, and always ready are
In ev'ry Work to take our proper Share ;
And from the Time that Harveſt doth begin,
Until the Corn be cut and carry'd in,
Our Toil and Labour's daily ſo extreme,
That we have hardly ever Time to dream.



[ 12 ]


     THE Harveſt ended, Reſpite none we find ;
The hardeſt of our Toil is ſtill behind :
Hard Labour we moſt chearfully purſue,
And our, abroad, a Charing often go :
Of which I now will briefly tell in part,
What fully to declare is paſt my Art ;
So many Hardſhips daily we go through,
I boldly ſay, the like you never knew.

     WHEN bright Orion glitters in the Skies
In Winter Nights, then early we muſt riſe ;
The Weather ne'er ſo bad, Wind, Rain, or Snow,
Our Work appointed, we muſt riſe and go ;
While you on eaſy Beds may lie and ſleep,
Till Light does thro' your Chamber-windows peep.
When to the Houſe we come where we ſhould go,
How to get in, alas ! we do not know :
The Maid quite tir'd with Work the Day before,
O'ercome with Sleep ; we ſtanding at the Door
Oppreſs'd with Cold, and often call in vain,
E're to our Work we can Admittance gain :



[ 13 ]


But when from Wind and Weather we get in,
Briskly with Courage we our Work begin ;
Heaps of fine Linen we before us view,
Whereon to lay our Strength and Patience too ;
Cambricks and Muſlins, which our Ladies wear,
Laces and Edgings, coſtly, fine, and rare,
Which muſt be waſh'd with utmoſt Skill and Care ;
With Holland Shirts, Ruffles and Fringes too,
Faſhions which our Fore-fathers never knew.
For ſeveral Hours here we work and ſlave,
Before we can one Glimpſe of Day-light have ;
We labour hard before the Morning's paſt,
Becauſe we fear the Time runs on too faſt.

     AT length bright Sol illuminates the Skies,
And ſummons drowſy Mortals to ariſe ;
Then comes our Miſtreſs to us without fail,
And in her Hand, perhaps, a Mug of Ale
To cheer our Hearts, and alſo to inform
Herſelf, what Work is done that very Morn ;
Lays her Commands upon us, that we mind
Her Linen well, nor leave the Dirt behind :
C



[ 14 ]


Not this alone, but alſo to take care
We don't her Cambricks nor her Ruffles tear ;
And theſe moſt ſtrictly does of us require,
To ſave her Soap, and ſparing be of Fire ;
Tells us her Charge is great, nay furthermore,
Her Cloaths are fewer than the Time before.
Now we drive on, reſolv'd our Strength to try,
And what we can, we do moſt willingly ;
Until with Heat and Work, 'tis often known,
Not only Sweat, but Blood runs trickling down
Our Wriſts and Fingers ; ſtill our Work demands
The conſtant Action of our lab'ring Hands.

     NOW Night comes on, from whence you have Relief,
But that, alas ! does but increaſe our Grief ;
With heavy Hearts we often view the Sun,
Fearing he'll ſet before our Work is done ;
For either in the Morning, or at Night,
We piece the Summer's Day with Candle-light.
Tho' we all Day with Care our Work attend,
Such is our Fate, we know not when 'twill end :



[ 15 ]


When Ev'ning's come, you Homeward take your Way,
We, till our Work is done, are forc'd to ſtay ;
And after all our Toil and Labour paſt,
Six-pence or Eight-pence pays us off at laſt ;
For all our Pains, no Proſpect can we ſee
Attend us, but Old Age and Poverty.

     THE Waſhing is not all we have to do :
We oft change Work for Work as well as you.
Our Miſtreſs of her Pewter doth complain,
And 'tis our Part to make it clean again.
This Work, tho' very hard and tireſome too,
Is not the worſt we hapleſs Females do :
When Night comes on, and we quite weary are,
We ſcarce can count what falls unto our Share ;
Pots, Kettles, Sauce-pans, Skillets, we may ſee,
Skimmers and Ladles, and ſuch Trumpery,
Brought in to make complete our Slavery.
Tho' early in the Morning 'tis begun,
'Tis often very late before we've done ;
Alas ! our Labours never know an End ;
On Braſs and Iron we our Strength muſt ſpend ;
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[ 16 ]


Our tender Hands and Fingers ſcratch and tear :
All this, and more, with Patience we muſt bear.
Colour'd with Dirt and Filth we now appear ;
Your threſhing ſooty Peas will not come near.
All the Perfections Woman once could boaſt,
Are quite obſcur'd, and altogether loſt.

     Once more our Miſtreſs ſends to let us know
She wants our Help, becauſe the Beer runs low :
Then in much haſte for Brewing we prepare,
The Veſſels clean, and ſcald with greateſt Care ;
Often at Midnight, from our Bed we riſe
At other Times, ev'n that will not ſuffice ;
Our Work at Ev'ning oft we do begin,
And 'ere we've done, the Night comes on again.
Water we pump, the Copper we muſt fill,
Or tend the Fire ; for if we e'er ſtand ſtill,
Like you, when threſhing, we a Watch muſt keep,
Our Wort Boils over if we dare to ſleep.

     BUT to rehearſe all Labour is in vain,
Of which we very juſtly might complain :



[ 17 ]


For us, you ſee, but little Reſt is found ;
Our Toil increaſes as the Year runs round.
While you to Syſiphus yourſelves compare,
With Danaus' Daughters we may claim a Share ;
For while he labours hard againſt the Hill,
Bottomleſs Tubs of Water they muſt fill.

     SO the induſtrious Bees do hourly ſtrive
To bring their Loads of Honey to the Hive ;
Their ſordid Owners always reap the Gains,
And poorly recompenſe their Toil and Pains.