Female labours

SO, I was sat this afternoon putting the final stitches into the July panel of my current labours of the months project, and got thinking. Obviously the current project will be a few years yet in the completion, and I do have a small piece I want to do as a handbag project once thats done, but I think I have an idea for what I want to do after that.

I chose the current labours of the months fairly randomly, but most of the ones I’ve seen here and there don’t feature any women.

I was thinking it would be fun to do a girl’s version of the labours of the months as a companion to the one I’m doing at the moment. Obviously, it would have to be more of an “original work” rather than a replica medieval piece, but I want to do it in medieval style as I think it would make a useful teaching tool and discussion forum.

Trouble is, I can’t quite decide what to put in, and which month should feature which labour.

So, I’m asking you all to put your thinking caps on and contribute ideas and opinions.

Driving home, I came up with-

sewing/embroidery (obviously!)

cooking – I think probably November, cos I could balance the man slaughtering pigs with the woman making them into sausages.mmmm…sausages…where was I? Oh yes!

Brewing (cos i think most people now have lost sight of the fact this was once women’s work)



caring for animals – chickens and goats I think, cos goats are one of my favourite animals and chickens are fun to draw


gathering herbs for medicine

childcare, possibly in the form of instructing little ones in basic literacy, it would be fun to use a hornbook as I sometimes use one at work


gossping (cos we all know how important social networking is)

beating one’s husband (although the teacher I suggested my idea to seemed to think this was a year round activity)



courting a young man – I quite fancy this  as an older woman and young man, as in Chaucer’s alison

ideas welcomly accepted, even the silly ones

~ by opusanglicanum on November 17, 2011.

16 Responses to “Female labours”

  1. As someone who isn’t familiar with the more traditional monthly labours, could you include a list of the 12? That might suggest matching labours. Spinning and weaving, for instance, I see more as winter jobs because you can do them inside, whereas planting an herb garden is more of a spring thing.

    • they can very a lot, but my current one includes

      jan – the god janus
      feb – sitting by the fire – which I had thought would be fun to contrast with a woman spinning
      march – pruning
      april – picking herbs
      may – hunting
      june – mowing hay
      july-harvesting corn
      aug – threshing
      sept – garthering grapes
      oct – fattening beasts
      nov – slaughtering
      dec – toasting the old year

      • Then possible matches might include:

        Jan – Hogmanay and the various feasts (lots of cooking?)
        Feb – Carding and Spinning (which can really go any month?)
        Mar – Spring cleaning?
        Apr – Planting (and harvesting?) the herb garden
        May – Lambing/Calving/Birthing? (Also possibly March depending on climate)
        Jun – Cheese making?
        Jul – Weaving (it’s really too hot to move around?)
        Aug – Sewing (for the next winter?)
        Sep – Pressing of the grapes, brewing of the beer
        Oct – Stock taking, to ensure everyone survives the winter. (Also when one decides how many beasts will be slaughtered for the year.)
        Nov – Making of the sausages, salting of the fishes
        Dec – Spinning around in your finery? (Why should >every< month be work?)

        It's just off the cuff, but I think I've hit most of the women's labours. Maybe some healing somewheres …

      • twelfth night perhaps, but am not scottish, and don’t do hogmanay¬!

        I do like the idea of cheese making tho, that could have the goats in it

        I agree sewing/embroidery should be one of the summer months because the light would be better

        so many can go any month tho, can’t they? good job I have a few years to think about it while I finish the other

      • Well, if not Hogmanay … 12th Night?

        (And in January, feast cooking usually includes lots and lots of baking, doesn’t it?)

        I just think womenses needs a month to be appreciated in all their comely goodness. After all, the men get to sit by the fire in december, and toast the year in February. And if they’re sitting by the fire, why not give them something to watch? 🙂

      • I’ve actually been thinking that December ought to be for feasting, and january ought to be spinning. I know spinning is non-specific to any one month, but on the male-centric labours I’m currently doing, January is the god janus, and I think spinning would be a good reference to that because it alludes to the classical fates and thier spinning, so it ties the two together.

        It will probably pass most viewers by, but since I’m a classicist, it appeals to me enormously

  2. I’d do brewing in March, for March beer.

  3. I can’t improve on your list and on those suggested above – but I do like the idea of a month off in December – Saturnalia and all that. Thanks for coming to visit yesterday; I’ve enjoyed having a look around your place too. You produce some lovely work.

  4. Greetings,

    I just found your blog. Marvelous work! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

    One thing missing from your list would be baking. And I don’t agree with the month off in December. There’s holiday season coming and all, so there would be no time off for the lady of the house. Cleaning or cooking would fit better for December. And it would be nicer to have the spinning around free done during the summer, when it’s warm outside, don’t you agree?

    May I add a link to your blog in my own?

    • Of course you may.

      There are so many different activities and only 12 months, its so difficult, especially when so many female activites aren’t really seasonal. this is going to take longer to think about than it is to do!

  5. What about sitting and being on the receiving end of courtly love?

  6. Oh, this is very interesting! I don’t know if this is a helpful contribution, since you’ve already done work on the men’s tasks; but what about shearing and whittling? I think men used to whittle and fix leather gear next to the fire, while shearing was a fun activitiy that young men and women did together. I’ve heard a lot of folk songs where shearing is an activity with lots of room for flirtation. So maybe this could go on the women’s list as well?

    Also, what about baking, washing and ironing for women? Or walking around with a big bunch of keys supervising the household staff/ taking inventory?

    This is so neat, thanks for your blog.

    • the mens tasks, which I’m 2/3 the way through, are kind of dictated by the set of windows I’m basing them on, so tehy’re set

      not sure ironing really applies for this period, but there will be cooking, which includes baking – I was going to put that in november to balance mr november, who is slaughtering pigs, so i was going to have mrs november making pies and sausages.

      other people have suggested shearing, and I’m certainly considering it

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