When Dundee was known as “Juteopolis” because of its thriving jute industry, it was a matriarchal city.
Nicknamed "She Town”, women outnumbered men three to one in the jute mills (swipe to see The Dundee Weaver, a statue in Lochee celebrating those hard-working women).
They were the breadwinners, and their husbands – called “kettle bilers” – stayed at home to care for the children, cook the meals and do the housework.
Traditional gender roles were flipped in Dundee long before society began to catch on to the fact that women could work and men could look after the kids.
That’s not to say that these were Dundee’s halcyon days of progressive parenting – in the mills, conditions were dreadful and days were long; at home, money was scarce and food was in short supply.
Many children worked in the mills (Dundee was the last city in Scotland to abolish child labour), and in 1863, the life expectancy of Dundonian men was just 33. Life was extremely tough.
In its jute heyday, Dundee was home to more than 130 mills. The last one, Taybank Works, closed in 1999.
Take a stroll around the city and you can still spot some, now transformed into flats and hotels. They’re a reminder of the first of Dundee’s three famous Js – jute, jam and journalism.
📸: Jute workers image (cropped) by a British official photographer from the Imperial War Museum archive via Wikimedia Commons (public domain); Dundee Weaver statue (cropped) by dun_deagh via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence).
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