Print, coloured aquatint from The Costume of Yorkshire / George Walker, 1814. engraved by R. Havell after G. Walker, pub. April 1, 1814 by Robinson & Son, Leeds, Pl. 35 Leech finders [women collecting leeches] mounted: 35x43.5cm
Leeches, a type of worm with suckers at both ends of the body, were used in bloodletting. It was the job of the leech finders, usually women, to collect these creatures for medical use. The leeches attached themselves to the legs and feet of the women who plucked them off and stored them in the little barrels of water. Doctors grew rich at the expense of these low paid women. Leeches were such a popular treatment that by 1830 demand outstripped supply all over Europe. Today, leeches are used following plastic and reconstructive surgery as they help restore blood flow and circulation. The print appeared in Costume of Yorkshire, published by George Walker in 1814.