1887 painting by Emile Claus below shows something about the life of
women around the turn of the 19th century. Shown are the wives of
poor farmworkers ('landknechten')
and wives of day labourers ('dagloners')
who often came for a starvation wage to weed flax fields. Notice how
they all had removed their wooden shoes ('klompen')
to avoid damaging the flax. Also, if possible they were put to work
with the wind at their backs do that the flax plants they had been
pressed down would be blown back to stand upright. The farmer's wife
stood ready with a basket to collect the weeds removed.
Flanders had had an age-old dependence on cultivation of flax and its spinning and weaving.