Mary Collier

Mary Collier (ca. 1688–1762) was an English poet, perhaps best known for her poetic risposte to Stephen Duck, The Woman's Labour.

Collier is an important figure in the self-taught, laboring-class tradition in eighteenth-century poetry, a tradition which also includes Duck, as well as Ann Yearsley and Mary Leapor.

Little is known of Collier's early life other than what she wrote in ‘Some remarks on the author's life drawn by herself’, prefaced to her Poems on Several Occasions (1762): she was born to poor parents, educated at home, and worked as a washer-woman and at other manual labour.

She read Stephen Duck's The Thresher's Labour (1730) and in response to his apparent disdain for labouring-class women, wrote the 246-line poem for which she is mainly remembered, The Woman's Labour: an Epistle to Mr Stephen Duck. In this piece she catalogues the daily tasks of a working woman, both outside the home and, at the end of the day, within the home as well:

You sup, and go to Bed without delay,
And rest yourselves till the ensuing Day;
While we, alas! but little Sleep can have... (111-113)

Collier worked as a washer-woman until she was sixty-three. She continued working for seven more years until, in poor health, she retired at age seventy and died shortly thereafter.


  • The Woman's Labour: an Epistle to Mr Stephen Duck (1739)
  • Poems on Several Occasions (1762)
  • The Poems of Mary Collier (1765)

Electronic resources


  • Jones, William R. “Collier, Mary (1688?–1762).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. 14 Nov 2008.
  • Todd, Janet, ed. "Collier, Mary (fl. 1740–1760)." A dictionary of British and American women writers, 1660–1800. Rowman & Littlefield, 1987.

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