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Are we justified in labelling Kate a thief?

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  • Are we justified in labelling Kate a thief?

    Hello All,

    While watching a JTR documentary recently I wa surprised to hear a tour guide refer to Kate as "having robbed her employer" and thought at first that she was confusing her with Polly Nichols. Having checked, however, I found a reference to this in the Daily News of Oct 4th, 1888 from her elder sister, Mrs Emma Jones, who seemed determined to paint as black a picture as possible of poor Kate (sibling rivalry perhaps?).

    According to her, Kate was sent to an aunt in Wolverhampton at the age of ten (!), but ran away to her uncle in Birmingham after a few months, having "robbed her employer". I have looked into what work a ten-year-old girl would be employed in and discounted her being sent down a mine, to the potteries or picking up lint under cotton spinning machines, and concluded that the most likely possibility was that she was in domestic service, as were her two elder sisters.

    At ten years of age she would most probably be employed as a scullery maid or "slavey" - a very apt name. She would have been up at 5.30 a.m. and working until ten or ten-thirty at night, have slept perhaps in a cupboard under the stairs or in the kitchen and her work would have been the dirtiest and possibly the hardest in the house, emptying and cleaning chamberpots, scrubbing floors, polishing brass and so on. Her position was the lowest in the house and she would have been routinely ignored and humiliated. Quite probably she would have been given the worst food and litttle of it. Not every house was Downton Abbey. Food was kept under lock and key (as in a meatsafe, for example) and as a growing girl she may have been constantly hungry.

    I have concluded that her "theft" was most probably of some food to sustain her on her journey to her uncle in Birmingham. She may well have resented being taken out of school and being a bright and spirited girl was perhaps in trouble for being seen and heard more than she was supposed to.

    Some of this is conjecture - I do hope I haven't fallen into the trap of a deal of chaff (or do I mean chav?) and very little wheat, as I have seen in the case of perhaps one poster lol.

    Is it time to clear Kate`s name? She was aged ten and doesn't seem to have become an habitual thief - quite the opposite, she seems to have worked hard all her life, hawking, hopping, picking fruit and cleaning and so on.

    Best wishes,
    C4
    Last edited by curious4; 02-18-2013, 10:54 AM.

  • #2
    not habitual

    Hello Gwyneth. I think you are correct that a single transgression does not an habitual criminal make.

    Cheers.
    LC
    Last edited by lynn cates; 02-18-2013, 11:51 AM.

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    • #3
      Hello Lynn,

      Cheers!

      Gwyneth

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      • #4
        Although your listings of the horrors Kate suffered was colorful and quite...imaginative, basic math indicates she would have been at least 13 in 1855 (when her mother died) not 10.

        Let all Oz be agreed;
        I'm Wicked through and through.

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        • #5
          Kate

          All facts checked, I can assure you. According to the newspaper report, her sister said that she was ten years of age, which she would have been when her mother died. Her father died a couple of years later, it seems.

          Best wishes,
          C4

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          • #6
            Kate

            Hello Ally,

            Yes, there does seem to be a discrepancy in the date when Kate's mother died. Would have thought her sister would have known her (Kate's) age at the time, though. As for the rest, Google Domestic Servants in Victorian England. Ten or twelve, her working conditions would have been the same.

            Best wishes,
            C4
            Last edited by curious4; 02-18-2013, 02:03 PM.

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            • #7
              There were 12 kids and Kate was the middle. It was 30 years later. It's hardly surprising that a sister didn't remember the exact age. And not all servants were beaten and abused. If I am not mistaken, Kate went to live and work for her aunt whom she lived with until she ran away with her first husband. So at the very least she probably wasn't being starved and abused as you imagine her to be.

              Let all Oz be agreed;
              I'm Wicked through and through.

              Comment


              • #8
                In 1861, when she was living with her uncle, William, at 50 Bilston Street, Wolverhampton, "Cath" Eddowes has her occupation listed as "Scourer". Not much had changed in several years, it would seem!
                Regards, Bridewell.

                Comment


                • #9
                  In the 1851 census, when she was ten, she was still living with her parents at 35, West Street, Bermondsey and is shown as "Scholar". Presumably, if she was in employment at that age, it was later in the same year.
                  Regards, Bridewell.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Kate

                    Hello Bridewell,

                    I suppose the mother is also listed in the census? There is the report in the Wolverhampton paper, quoted in the "victims" section, which gives the date of Kate's mother's death as 1851. Is there a proper record of her death?

                    In my scenario I was giving an accurate picture (I believe, also gathered from my reading) of the reality for many children, ten years was an acceptable age at which to start in domestic service and not many houses came up to the Downton Abbey standards. Child labour was rife and full of horrors, in spite of the fact that there was an effort to improve things in the middle of the century. Whatever age Kate was, she was still a child and does not deserve to be branded a thief.

                    Best wishes,
                    C4

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Kate

                      Hello Bridewell,

                      I suppose the mother is also listed in the census? There is the report in the Wolverhampton paper, quoted in the "victims" section, which gives the date of Kate's mother's death as 1851. Is there a proper record of her death?

                      In my scenario I was giving an accurate (I believe, also gathered from my reading) of the reality for many children, ten years was an acceptable age at which to start in domestic service and not many houses came up to the Downton Abbey standards. Child labour was rife and full of horrors, in spite of the fact that there was an effort to improve things in the middle of the century. Whatever age Kate was, she was still a child and does not deserve to be branded a thief.

                      Best wishes,
                      C4

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by curious4 View Post
                        Hello Bridewell,

                        I suppose the mother is also listed in the census? There is the report in the Wolverhampton paper, quoted in the "victims" section, which gives the date of Kate's mother's death as 1851. Is there a proper record of her death?

                        In my scenario I was giving an accurate (I believe, also gathered from my reading) of the reality for many children, ten years was an acceptable age at which to start in domestic service and not many houses came up to the Downton Abbey standards. Child labour was rife and full of horrors, in spite of the fact that there was an effort to improve things in the middle of the century. Whatever age Kate was, she was still a child and does not deserve to be branded a thief.

                        Best wishes,
                        C4
                        Accurate as a generic.maybe...But there's nothing to link it with Kate specifically............

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Kate

                          Hello Steve S,

                          No, just a guess on my part when considering which jobs would be open to ten-year-olds. (Or even 12, 13 year-olds.) Both of her elder sisters were in service, so may well have thought it a good option for her.

                          Just a guess, I admit, but a fairly logical one I thought.

                          Best wishes,
                          C4

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                          • #14
                            It is a logical guess for a job,but we can't really say what HER conditions would have been like IF that was the job...Sorry if I appear picky,but I get paranoid about guesses metamorphasising into facts 3 forum pages later............

                            Steve

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                            • #15
                              Kate's work

                              Oh dear, definitely not what I want to happen! I was trying to find an explanation for her running away, and why she was accused of stealing. Somewhere along the way something went very wrong for her. I agree that her working conditions weren't necessarily that bad, but she must have been unhappy for some reason and we can see from her later life that she was far from lazy.

                              Just wanted to put up a possible reason for her actions and many children were working in these conditions, although they were better off than those in the mines or the cotton factories.

                              Regards,
                              C4

                              PS Hope a little speculation is allowed!
                              Last edited by curious4; 02-20-2013, 05:19 PM.

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