Tracing Ancestors Through Letters and Personal Writings
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On the 1881 census Jane Bird (aged 20) and her older sister Mary (aged 29) both from Hesketh in Cumberland were employed by a Mrs Agnes Wharton, in Westminster. Jane was an ‘apprentice,’ whilst Mary had obviously been promoted to the position of ‘assistant.’ Dressmaker’s apprentices at around this time paid an annual premium to their employers of between £10-£50 to cover their living costs. Girls were usually bound at the age of fourteen or fifteen and the apprenticeship lasted for two or three years. www.thegenealogist.co.uk
A Singer Sewing Machine, 1853: in the 1881 census nearly 5,000 women are accorded the occupation ‘sewing machinist’ (sewing machines were first patented in 1846 but were not in general use until the 1860s). Frederick L. Lewton, The Servant in the House: A Brief History of the Sewing Machine, Annual Report of the Smithsonian Institute, 1929, Washington Government Printing Office, 1930.