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Broadside ballad entitled 'Labouring Woman'


This ballad begins: 'You married men and women give ear unto my song, / I'll tell you of a circumstance that will not keep you long; / I heard a man the other day, and he was savage as a Turk, / He was grumbling at his wife, saying she would ne'er work.' It was published by James Lindsay of 9 King Street, Glasgow, and includes a woodcut illustration of a woman sweeping a floor.

Unusually, this ballad highlights the daily toils of women. It takes the form of a list detailing every chore a woman has to complete, while her husband is out at work. There are numerous examples in the National Library of Scotland's collection of broadsides that portray women as lazy, drunken and deceitful, but very few that present womankind in a more positive light. This rare example offers what is probably a very truthful representation of daily life for the average woman in nineteenth-century Scotland.

Early ballads were dramatic or humorous narrative songs derived from folk culture that predated printing. Originally perpetuated by word of mouth, many ballads survive because they were recorded on broadsides. Musical notation was rarely printed, as tunes were usually established favourites. The term 'ballad' eventually applied more broadly to any kind of topical or popular verse.

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Probable period of publication: 1852-1859   shelfmark: L.C.Fol.178.A.2(058)
Broadside ballad entitled 'Labouring Woman'
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