How do you approach research methodologies for your academic journey?
- Choose an object you feel has a story to reveal.
- Write a 300 word text acknowledging the texts that link to your writing.
- Upload an image of object with the title of your written precis onto the ideas wall, and further elaborate in your blog.
- Design your object and 300 word text, with references, as an editorial piece to be seen in print or on screen.
Sewing has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I made my first dress on my mother’s hand-cranked Singer sewing machine at the age of twelve. Sewing clothes for myself has given me freedom from ill-fitting mass-produced clothes, but is it always the case?
The industrial revolution in Great Britain saw rapid expansion in the development of tools designed to ease the manufacturing purposes, which had positive and negative consequences for the working classes of all industries.
Thirty years after Thomas Hood wrote his poem “The Song of the Shirt” highlighting the gruelling conditions under which piece-workers sewed garments, and subsequently, the sewing machine gained popularity in England, the invention was proving to benefit capitalists further up in social strata rather than the workers using the machines. Where seamstresses could expect to receive “threepence-halfpenny” for a shirt before the introduction of the sewing machine, after, that amount reduced to “one penny and threefarthings” (The Sewing Machine and its Victims, 1875, p. 220).
In 1863, The Eclectic Review raised concerns that “in an establishment where, two years ago, two hundred women were engaged to work, only some forty are now kept … the displaced women must often hover about the workhouse steps” (The Charities of London, 1863, p.169). A wider study was done by the London Journal in 1875, and it summarised that the sewing machine “in the hands of capitalists has proved to be more of a curse than a blessing to those whose fate it is, and has been immemorially, to work … and the promise with which its general introduction was heralded, like many another, worse than an airy nothing” (The Sewing Machine and its Victims, 1875, p. 220)
In the middle class of the age, Lance proclaimed that “any lady of ordinary ability can learn the use of the sewing machine in half a dozen lessons” (Lance, F., Social Subjects, p.365) and it benefitted women who chose to use the machine rather than learnt as a necessity. Much as my sewing machine benefits me, today, as I choose to make my own clothes.
The research will be based on qualitative methods to assess how women of different social strata were affected by the advent of the sewing machine, and draw from periodicals, reports and advertisements of 1840s–1880s London whilst critically assessing the sources. As a point of further exploration, the research will extend to a comparison between the textile industry of nineteenth-century England and the global textile industry where similar exploitative practices can be seen.
THE CHARITIES OF LONDON. 1863. The Eclectic review, 4, pp. 167-183.
LANCE, F., 1874. SOCIAL SUBJECTS. London society: an illustrated magazine of light and amusing literature for the hours of relaxation, Jan.1862-Dec.1886, 26(154), pp. 365-374.
THE SEWING MACHINE AND ITS VICTIMS. The London Journal, and weekly record of literature, science, and art, Mar. 1845-Apr. 1906; London Vol. 62, Iss. 1599, (Oct 2, 1875): 220-221.
Stedman, Edmund Clarence, ed. A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1895; Bartleby.com, 2003.