International Women’s Day: Celebrating the Women Against Pit Closures
This International Women’s Day, Betteshanger is honouring the humble heroes of the Kent Coalfield. With the help of the Kent Mining Museum team, we’ve pieced together a picture of life for local miner’s wives – thanks to those in our local community who’ve taken the time to share their stories.
A war on dust
The Kent Coalfield story is one of a kind. Families from Scotland, the North East, Wales and the Midlands uprooted their lives and travelled hundreds of miles (sometimes on foot) to make a new home for themselves in Kent.
And while the men toiled away in the pits, the women kept the house. As if working the fields, raising children, cooking, cleaning and powering through the day-to-day errands wasn’t enough, women were waging a never ending war… against coal dust.
Before pit baths opened in the 1930s, miners would return home ‘in the black’ – covered from head to toe in coal dust after a long shift down the pit. Trailing mess through the home, women would need to help their husbands (and sons) wash away the soot in a bathtub by the fire.
So when it came to building new pit houses in villages like Aylesham, it comes as no surprise that the wives of local miners were very insistent on including ground floor bathrooms so their husbands weren’t traipsing coal dust through the house.
Local work for local women
Preserving a way of life
And so life went on, women taking the lead in the home and financially supporting their families by seeking out local work. Even though it was less that one hundred years ago, life for women in rural Kent was very different to our own contemporary lifestyles. Women mastered balancing the many facets of their lives without the modern comforts we’ve grown accustomed to in the 21st century.
And in 1984-5, women were given a platform to show just how formidable and resilient they could be. During the Miners’ Strike, women played a vital role in supporting over 2,000 Kent miners who went out on strike.
When miner’s wives heard about the conditions of the halls and shelters their men were having to sleep in while away from home, they pulled together to raise funds for striking miners and their families. With the help of the local community, house shares and more comfortable options for accommodation were provided, support groups were established and soup kitchens were set up to feed families in hardship.
Inspiring a national political movement
Women of today
Get in touch
If you have a story to share from the Kent Coalfield, please get in touch with the Kent Mining Museum team: firstname.lastname@example.org