Ten percent of male workers in the United Kingdom were employed in the coal industry in 1914. Coal's economic and employment prevalence came at immense human cost. No industry was more dangerous or injurious to the health of its workers. Major pit disasters arising from explosions and fires drew public attention, but more damaging were the everyday attrition effects of roof falls and the dust-ridden environment underground. Coalfield women shared the industry's physical toll. While barred from work underground in Britain after the 1840s, their experience of childbirth and domestic labor in extremely arduous conditions was debilitating. Their daily shift, called the darg in Scotland, involved cleaning and drying their menfolk's pit clothes, heating water for baths, and preparing meals. Where mining sons lived in the parental home and worked different shifts from their fathers, mothers’ dargs could last from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The authors of Disability in...

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