The beginnings of improvement.

An Act of Parliament, prohibiting the employment of women and girls in mines and collieries, regulating the employment of boys, and making other provisions relating to persons working therein, was passed on 10th August, 1842.

In order in some degree to afford time for preparing for the change, it allowed female apprentices under the age of 18 to continue at their usual occupation below ground for three months, and all other females for six months. Accordingly it was not until the 1st of March, 1843, that, it became unlawful for any owner of any mine or colliery "to employ any female person whatsoever within any mine or colliery, or to allow or permit any female person to work or be therein."

The common practice in Scotland had been that the females were not employed immediately by the proprietors, but by their men.

The parish of Newton in Midlothian was one which experienced perhaps rather more than the average amount of inconvenience from the change. The minister of that parish, the Rev. J. Adamson, provided the following details:-

"The population of the parish, by the census of 1841, was 1743. The collier population, including the artisans connected therewith, may amount to about 1100. The operation of the Act, excluding female labour, has for the time materially affected the well-being of their families, however beneficial it may be in the end, and especially has proved a sore grievance to females somewhat advanced in life, and who have no near relatives to assist them. The number of females whom the Act affected may amount to about 180, of whom 61 were married. Their remaining at home, though it may diminish the income of, must be a great benefit to, the family in respect of comforts and the care of the children. Of the remaining 119, only 49 have obtained permanent employment, - 10 in factories, and the remainder as domestic servants. There are 70 who remain unemployed, except, when work is partially to be obtained with the farmer ; but being unacquainted with it, and there being a plentiful supply of labourers otherwise, not much work of this kind is to be obtained, and that only through the summer season. Of the 70 a certain proportion are young people from nine years and upwards, not yet fit for any other employment than that to which they had been put, of assisting their mothers or other relations in carrying the coals from the "hew," as it is called, to the pit bottom. The remainder consists of those who have not yet succeeded in obtaining service, and of others who, from their being advanced in years, never will be so engaged, and upon whom therefore the Act, as excluding them from the only labour for which they were fit, without any provision or compensation being made, falls with a peculiar severity; since, being still able to work, if work could be obtained, they are not entitled to parochial relief by the law of Scotland."

From this and other sources of inquiry in the parish, it was concluded that if from the 70 above named as unmarried, and still out of employ, a fair deduction be made for those who can be maintained by the earnings of their fathers and brothers, though not without difficulty, until they are able to find work for themselves, not more than 40 of the 180 (or between a fourth and a fifth of the whole) are subjected at present to severe privation by the operation of the Act. Some of these unquestionably are suffering greatly, having been reduced from a position in which they could feed and clothe themselves in comfort and decency, to the necessity of resorting to the most humiliating employments, such as collecting manure on the roads, &c. The minister of the parish mentioned two instances which may be taken as representing the difficulties to which many of the same class must have been exposed.

"The daughters, of the ages of 49 and 40 respectively (of a father aged 75), have been left to shift for themselves, and have had recourse to making and vending camstone (a kind of white clay used for washing the earthen and stone floors of houses), since they cannot hope to be received as domestic servants, after having been for so long a period nothing better than beasts of burden. In this occupation, when the weather admits of their going abroad, they make on an average about three pence a day, and to do this they have sometimes to travel as far as Haddington, a distance of 14 miles."