Looking through our image collection this week, this lovely photograph caught my eye. It’s part of Spinning the Web, a website set up to celebrate the cotton industry in Lancashire.
The photograph was taken by the Cotton Board in 1965. She is described as a young cotton weaver, working on a Jacquard Loom producing towels.
There’s no mention of her name. She looks like someone I might have gone to school with. She’s holding a shuttle. I have one on my windowsill, given to me many years ago by a woman who was a spinner, when I went on a training course held in a cotton mill in Burnley.
The warp and weft of the North West was made from cotton and women’s work. Mills employed women from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution. Communities depended on their wages and developed to allow for a strong female workforce. Everything from cooking to child care was affected. Lancashire hotpot could be left to cook slowly in the kitchen range oven, ready for the return from work.
It’s a vanished era, captured in these 1960s images. Not the swinging sixties, but the still spinning and weaving sixties.
A recent exhibition in Manchester Town Hall has raised questions about how we celebrate the contribution of women to the history of Manchester, Lancashire and beyond.
Called ‘Stature‘, it has been created by Warp and Weft and is on show until March 9th, coinciding with International Women’s Day on March 8th.
If you can’t get to see it, make sure you read about it. It has certainly caught the attention of the public and the media. Placing brightly coloured crochet face masks on marble busts of men is an imaginative way of drawing attention to women’s roles in Manchester’s past achievements. Warp and Weft as a working name for the artists references the North West’s textile industry heritage too, a heritage that was created by the women of the area.