Story: Clothing and footwear manufacturing

The sweating scandal

The sweating scandal of the late 1880s focused on women working at home and being paid on the piecework system – for each piece produced rather than by the hour. In this cartoon from the New Zealand Observer and Free Lance of 3 November 1888, the woman doing sweated labour is being paid eightpence ($14.60 in 2009 terms) per dozen to do the finishing work on shirts. She is contrasted with her wealthy female employer (inset). The 1890 Sweating Commission looked at conditions in clothing and other factories, as well as those for women doing piecework at home.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: H-713-093
Cartoon by William Blomfield

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Jane Tolerton, 'Clothing and footwear manufacturing - Clothing factories', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 17 January 2021)

Story by Jane Tolerton, published 11 Mar 2010