Milkmaid in Minnesota, United States.
Milkmaid and dairy cattle in Mangskog, Sweden, 1911

A milkmaid, milk maid, milkwoman, dairymaid, or dairywoman was a girl or woman who milked cows.[1] She also used the milk to prepare dairy products such as cream, butter, and cheese. Many large houses employed milkmaids instead of having other staff do the work. The term milkmaid is not the female equivalent of milkman in the sense of one who delivers milk to the consumer;[citation needed] it is the female equivalent of milkman in the sense of cowman or dairyman.[2]

A Danish milk maid with shoulder yoke

As a result of exposure to cowpox, which conveys a partial immunity to the disfiguring (and often fatal) disease smallpox, it was noticed that milkmaids lacked the scarred, pockmarked complexion common to smallpox survivors. This observation led to the development of the first vaccine.[3]

Cultural references

See also


  1. ^ Galen, Jessica A. B. (2017). "Dairymaids". The Oxford Companion to Cheese (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780199330881.013.0270. ISBN 978-0-19-933088-1. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  2. ^ Hough, Carole (2001). "Middle English Deye in a Fifteenth-Century Cookery Book". Neuphilologische Mitteilungen. 102 (3): 303–305. JSTOR 43344800. The standard edition of the cookbook glosses deye as 'dairymaid', and indeed the term is otherwise recorded as a simplex in Middle English only with this meaning or the masculine equivalent 'dairyman'.
  3. ^ Stern, Alexandra Minna; Howard Markel (2005). "The History Of Vaccines And Immunization: Familiar Patterns, New Challenges" (PDF). Health Affairs. 24 (3): 611–621. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.24.3.611. PMID 15886151. Retrieved 25 December 2010.
  4. ^ The Associated Press (November 26, 2012). "'12 days of Christmas' cost: How much is a partridge in a pear tree?". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 8 May 2014.