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Women Drovers

Women   Drovers

You would expect a few drovers to encourage their wives/partners to join them on the long trail, but no female drover is mentioned in newspapers as being “attached” to a male one.  They all seem to be independent, perhaps fearsomely independent, women.


The Morning Post reported that the 1841 Census mention 13 Scottish women drovers.  (Also on the list we find 440 actresses, 4 bayonet-makers and 15 authors.  The occupational returns make fascinating reading.)


The women may have been few, but they featured in the news stories frequently ...In Dudley in 1882 John Jeavons was charged with stabbing Phoebe Sylvester, a female drover and married woman1.  Jeavons had challenged Phoebe’s husband  at “The Hearty Goodfellow” in Flood Street to toss a coin for a pint; ten tosses later Jeavons had lost ten pints!  Jeavons then hit the husband; Phoebe hit Jeavons, and an almighty row broke out involving many (relatives, mostly) in the pub.  Then Phoebe fell to the floor, shouting “Murder!”  She was found to have been stabbed twice in the back: the wounds were 1” wide and at least 1” deep...  All reported dramatically in the Birmingham Post.


According to The Bucks Herald of September 2nd 1893, 2,826 drovers are recorded in the 1891 Census, only two of them women.  (There were, however, 36 female cattle dealers.)


Sheffield Independent of 16th Oct. 1908: “Mr Sam May has been sent for trial on the serious charge of assaulting female cattle drover Annie Elizabeth Newton (40) on her return from Bakewell Fair.”  End of article, unfortunately.


During the Great War there was a surge in the numbers, obviously: women cattle drovers were spotted in provincial markets – High Wycombe is mentioned – and the Daily Mirror ran an article on 12th December 1916 about Miss Thompson & North,” two of the independent women employed by the Royal Farm at Windsor who drove cattle to the sale at Slough.”  A picture shows Miss Thompson grooming the beasts before sale. (#1)


Any more stories, anyone?


1 The 1881 Census shows Phoebe living in Aston with her husband & 5 children; her occupation is not recorded.

Women Drovers image 1
Miss Thompson, Slough Market, 1916