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Women as Beadmakers

Most beadmakers are men, aren't they? At least, most beadmakers up-front are men.
That is, when you visit a bead industry, whether big and mechanized or small and hand-done, you meet men. There are always women around, but they are often stringing
or doing something secondary to actual beadmaking.

This is a separate topic, see
Women as Workers in the Bead Industry.

There are a few bead industries dominated by women, and here is one. John and I went to Channapatnam, Karnataka, India, because I heard there was a wooden bead industry there. We first went to a state sponsored woodworking factory. There was a central motor and an ingenious series of belts that drove a dozen lathes at which men worked. They turned small objects and colored them with lac. (Most wooden objects in India are not painted but coated with lac, an insect-extruded resin.) The men made little boxes and large beads for curtains.

But the curtains also needed small beads, and we were told to go to the suburb of Pangali. We were soon invited into a household where a young woman was making beads. It was a clever operation. She began with a stick of imported wood roasted over charcoal to prevent it from splitting. Then she mounted it on a lathe and using both hands and a foot she turned the stick on the bow-driven lathe to fashion bulges down its length. She colored the bulges with lac and polished them with a leaf. She next drilled through the bead and broke them apart as individual beads. Her grandmother had made beads in the same way.

As we walked away from her house we saw a man doing the same work outside his house. We stopped for a moment and watched him, then walked away, saying to each other, "How clumsy he is! It's the women really know how to do this work."

The smaller beads were far more numerous on the beaded curtains.
Why did the men get the state-supported factory?

Women as Workers in Bead Industries

Women as Bead Traders

Women as Bead Researchers

Beads and Love and Marriage

Bangles and Marriages

"But, if only she weren't so dark!"


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