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Women in milling

How were women directly involved in the milling industry?

A family posing outside a mill.
A family posing outside a windmill. They are predominantly female; presumably the man in the centre is the head of the family and the main miller.

A woman becoming directly involved in the pre-twentieth century milling industry usually depended on her having inherited the ownership or running of a mill upon the death of her milling husband.  Widows of millers were often assisted by members of their family in the trade.  It is likely in many cases the widow took over the running of the mill until such a time as one of her sons was old enough, and had received sufficient training, to take over the running of the mill.  Also, during the world wars of the twentieth century women may have taken over the running of the mill whilst their male relatives were at war.  This suggests that women must have had at least a basic understanding of how to run and manage a mill, even if they were publically seen as the “Miller’s wife” rather than a miller themselves. 

Miller’s daughters also played an interesting and significant role in the milling industry, in some cases assisting male family members or even taking on the responsibility of a mill themselves. 

The following examples and case studies of milling widows and daughters reveal how women could have opportunities to take on direct roles in the milling industry.