Modern Mermaids

The employment of females here, though I had seen a little of it before, was of that degrading kind, that I felt like revolting from the sight. Men and women go out in boats, to gather sea-weed that adheres to the rocks, which is used for manure. They take a long pole with hooks upon the end, wade in, standing often to the armpits in water, and scrape the weed from the rocks, put it in the boats, and the men take it to shore; the women remaining in the sea often through the day. At night they take a basket-full upon their backs, and bend to their wretched cabins, to boil their potatoes, and lie down upon the straw; and in the morning awake to the same hopes, and go to the same employment. Woman is here worse than a beast of burden, because she is often made to do what the beast never does.[17]

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.