I've been browsing through the census records and looking at the different occupations undertaken by our female ancestors prior to emigration. For most lower class women work was not a choice, but a necessity which would provide the few extra pennies needed to survive. For most women this meant working at home and finding the time between domestic chores to produce something to sell or to provide a service. Among our ancestors are the lacemakers of Beds. and Bucks. and the glovemakers of Somerset. There are farmers wives, dressmakers but not as many in service as I expected. From them all one young lady stands out........one of Alan's great grandmothers......
In April of 1861, on the night of the census , Jane is 19 years old and living in Chatton, a small village in Northumberland way up in the north-east and close to the Scottish border. Her occupation is listed as Toll Collector i.e. a person who sat at a tollgate or turnpike and collected the fees for using the road, bridge or canal. There were many of these tollgates , most of which had a small building, the toll booth, from which the collector worked and sometimes lived. I wonder if Jane's residence is in fact a tollhouse - she is listed as the head of the household and is living alone which is unusual for a young woman of the time even if her father does live two houses away. The toll roads were run by Turnpike Trusts who were responsible for maintaining the road, providing the tollhouse and appointing the toll collectors - Jane was likely employed in this capacity.
Jane's work indicates an independent young woman, unafraid to look for more than the traditional role, and who did have some choice in her occupation.