The pit brow lasses who sorted coal and performed a variety of jobs above ground at British coal mines prompted a violent debate about women's work in the nineteenth century. Seen as the prime example of degraded womanhood, the pit brow woman was regarded as an aberration in a masculine domain, cruelly torn from her `natural sphere', the home. The, attempt to restrict women's work at the mines in the 1880s highlights the dichotomy between the fashionable ideal of womanhood and the necessity and reality of female manual labour. Although only a tiny percentage of the colliery labour force, the pit lasses aroused an interest out of all proportion to their numbers and their work became a test case for women's outdoor manual employment. Angela John discusses the implications of this debate, showing how it encapsulates many of the ambivalences of late Victorian attitudes towards working-class female employment, and at the same time raises wider questions both about women's work in industries seen as traditionally male enclaves, and about the ways in which women within the working community have been presented by historians.This book was first published in 1980.