I've just acquired a magnificent, three-volume set of books called 'Wonderful London'. It dates from the 1920s and has a wealth of photographs of London from the late 19th century to the '20s. The joy I have in looking through the pages is finding lots of pictures of street life, rather than just the buildings and the more official face of society. So it's also a goldmine for seeing what women were up to at the time.
Here are some fine examples – the seated circle of women are ‘professional pea-shellers’! They worked at the Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market, and you can tell from the mountain of pea pods in front of them that they were kept busy, and had, no doubt, a good gossip as they worked.
The woman standing and looking a tad fierce is a ‘Whip Woman’. No, she didn’t whip people for reason of crime or dubious sexual play – she was the guardian of all the whips that the carters used when driving their donkey or horse carts. They had to unload their goods, and leaving a whip on the cart in the meantime would make it highly likely to be stolen. So the Whip Woman looked after everyone’s whips, for a small fee of course!
I can relate these to our Circle of Nine without too much trouble. The Pea-Podders remind me of the Weaving Mother – women who act deftly with their hands, completing nimble tasks while passing on the news and weaving friendships. The Whip Woman is an emblem of the Just Mother. Even though she may not be using the whip, she is meting out justice in keeping property safe and banishing miscreants. And if anyone should dare to challenge her, well, I think the whip would come in handy!