Lady Arwen wrote:I'm not sure what you mean by "hatters hatting" as a masculine activity - women wore hats those days a good deal more so than today, especially in England and especially in polite society.
If I remember correctly, there is a distinction between hatters and milliners. Hatters made men's hats, while milliners made women's hats. During Queen Victoria's reign, most women who worked worked part time to supplement the family income, and my understanding is that the majority of the work they did was often of the domestic type, or would do short sprints at factories, such as the millinery you mentioned. A hatter, again, if I remember correctly, was more of a shop owner where he did most if not all his own work, and was not factory driven, like women's millinery. (Any other history buffs care to weigh in on this? I'm forgetting all the things that made hatters special.
I remember being taught that hatters did often go mad from the chemicals used in hat making. Wikipedia explanation:Mad as a hatter
Although the name "Mad Hatter" was clearly inspired by the phrase "as mad as a hatter", there is some uncertainty as to the origins of this phrase. Mercury was used in the process of curing felt used in some hats, making it impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hat making process; hatters and mill workers thus often suffered mad hatter disease, mercury poisoning causing neurological damage including confused speech and distorted vision. Hat making was the main trade in Stockport, near where Carroll grew up, and it was not unusual then for hatters to appear disturbed or confused; many died early as a result of mercury poisoning. However, the Hatter does not exhibit the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include "excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive