Nina Murden - The Lewes Seamstress



 I am passionate about equal pay for equal work – but more than that am very interested in pay parity… historically for thousands of years, patriarchy has ensured that whatever women do or have traditionally done, is not treated as valuable – either in cultural terms or monetarily. Think ‘housework’ and think child care!  I consider that my work as a professionally trained and very experienced seamstress is pretty much equitable to what a carpenter does, carpenters use wood and other materials, and work mending or making stuff using saws, hammers, drills, screws nails and so forth.   I work with fabrics, and make or mend stuff, using, scissors, pins, needles, sewing machines, and so forth.  But you try to get equivalent pay and status and respect! 

When I worked as a costumier in theatre way back in the 80’s, the set carpenters I worked alongside earned 5 times what us women (mainly women) earned in the wardrobe departments.  I felt this unfair at the time. Have things changed?  A little.  The pay disparity has lessened but there’s still quite a way to go and the basic understanding and respect for my craft is still sometimes somewhat lacking.

A man recently asked me to quote for some curtain alterations.  I gave him the quote, he was not pleased, ‘that’s a lot’ he complained, I told him it would take me a day and a half to sort out his second hand, damaged, machine washed, unevenly shrunk, un-pressed, torn and faded curtains that were the wrong size and that he had got for free from a pub.   ‘What’s your day rate?’  he demanded,  I foolishly told him, (it was 6.30 on a Friday night, and I was very tired).  ‘What!  he said, that’s almost what I charge out per day!’  What did he do for a living .. he was a carpenter.  Hmmm!   Attitudes need changing.  No longer can or should women work for pin money, we have houses, bills, children and so forth to support, and what I do has taken time, energy, skill and some considerable years of training to achieve.