Working in a shoe factory by Rita May Innes

Shoe press in Shoe Lane Leicester.The shoe-making machine in the picture is a post machine

This is a post machine used for making shoes

Rita started work in Stead and Simpson’s shoe factory in Leicester at the age of 16. Her job was as a general runabout taking messages all over the factory and serving tea from the tea trolley. Rita used to machine the leather on the machine. In another department the men cut out the shoes from a pattern placed on the leather. The traditional roles were women machining and men cutting. A forewoman was in charge. Leicester was famous for making shoes.

Rita’s next job was at a dress shop on Melton Road. She had to clock in and had to pay a penny if she was late.

Dressmaking skills
Her next job was in a Dress shop on Melton Road, which sold gowns, as they were called then. There she learnt how to sew, alter trousers, skirts and gowns along with other skills which were very useful to her and those who knew her. Often she would find at home after work a large pile of alterations brought by friends and neighbours, that needed to be altered.

She used to knit Aran jumbers for herself and the family. She did not find the patterns difficult to follow. Unfortunately arthritis prevents her from knitting now.

Memory contributed by Rita May Innes, Buckie

Additional Information

BBC Leicester ShoemakingBBC Radio Leicester Website exploring the Leicester Shoemaking Industry. Listen to Leicester listeners talking about working in the shoemaking industry.