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Quite Amazing!

Amy, On The Road

March was Women's History Month, so Amy set out to investigate the role of women in technology throughout history. Located about thirty miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site preserves one of America's earliest and most successful ironmaking villages. Amy and her film crew visited the site, learned about the furnace, and explored the role of women in the community.

Hopewell Furnace, Pennsylvania (2282k)

First, Amy explored the blast furnace. Built in 1771, the furnace transformed mineral into metal. Surrounding the Hopewell site, the plentiful Pennsylvania countryside offered the natural resources needed: iron ore, limestone, and carbon fuel. To supply the great quantities of charcoal (carbon fuel) needed, early furnaces needed to be near abundant forests. Men and some women were paid to chop wood, which was then continually burned in a carefully constructed bonfire, producing the valuable charcoal.

The charcoal was then added to the huge fire in the furnace. The nearby creek was diverted to power a huge waterwheel that produced a blast of air into a duct that helped to fuel the fire. The iron ore was added to the furnace and melted at extreme temperatures.

The molten, liquid iron ore was then either poured into a mold to be shaped or run into "pigs" on the ground to cool. "Pig iron" was so named because the ground where it cooled was sculpted to look like a mother pig with her piglets. The "pig iron" was then sold in its rough, unformed shape.

The iron molds were ornate and iron could be shaped into any form desired. Pieces of early American iron stoves were fashioned at Hopewell. After the molten iron was poured into a mold, dirt or sand was added to help it cool. Later, the finished piece needed to be cleaned.

Amy Tours The Furnace (3100k)

The work in the furnace was hard, physical labor in extreme temperatures. It was probably only performed by the men of the community. However, there were plenty of other roles for women in the ironmaking village.

Amy Tries Women's Work (3300k)

Women could receive a salary for doing domestic work for the unmarried men who worked in the furnace. Breadbakers, seamstresses, cooks, and maids all received wages in the ledgers. Some less traditional paying jobs for women in the village included chopping wood, tending animals, farming, and crafting the molds used in the furnace.

While the women in the village still had miles to go in search of equality, they did make strides in advancing the role of women in society. Clear historical evidence exists of women receiving equal pay for equal work in the village.

As Amy likes to say, "That's quite amazing!"

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