Goldfields: Women & Children

by Natalie

Introduction

When people started to worked on the goldfields when the gold rush began, women were not welcome at the golfields. On the goldfields in Ballarat, Victoria 1854, there were 4032 women and 12 660 men. 208 women were officially get paid. About 80% of women were domestic servants, 22% were needlewomen, dressmaker, milliners and shoe-binders. 5% of all women on the goldfields were single and between 3000 to 4000 children at the goldfields. In 1861, people started to come to Ballarat to find gold and it had grown to 12 726 men, 9135 women and 7838 children. Victoria started to show population from that. At that time, about 136 women started to work at the golfields as a gold miner, compared to 78 919 men.

Children moved schools frequently because their parents moved locations in search for gold.Moving to to new locations also meant that schools were not established. Children had to wait for an education because most parents could not educate their own children when they had no education of their own. Many children did not speak English and could not read or write. Some children recieved no education, these children had to work on the goldfields panning for gold or performing duties such as cleaning and looking after horses.

Roles and Reponsibilities of Women

Women on the goldfields had responsibilities to take care of their children and their home. In the gold rush, there were less women than men. Some women on the goldfields were shopkeepers, and some were diggers. Women usually performed duties like washing, ironing,.... They made jams, butter, bread, soap and clothes to sell and made some money. Clean water was expensive to buy, so was food and vegetables! Some women were dancers, they were there to entertained the diggers.

Women and children's health

On the goldfields, women and children's health was terribly bad. When women gave birth to a baby, they were assisted by other women because nurses/doctors were few. But women who gave birth to a baby usually died, there was not enough medicine and the water they used was dirty. Many children died on the goldfields, because they had fevesr, measles, chlolera and dysentery,..... Usually the reasons were they used dirty water from the river,not enough medicine or doctors and they ignored it. There were more than 1000 children that died on the goldfields. More than 200 children are buried in the gravestones at Pennyweight Flats Children's Cemetery in Castlemaine.