Mary Smith earned sixpence a week shooting dried peas at sleeping workers windows.
A Knocker-up (sometimes known as a knocker-upper) was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the Industrial Revolution and at least as late as the 1920s, before alarm clocks were affordable or reliable. A knocker-up’s job was to rouse sleeping people so they could get to work on time.
The knocker-up used a truncheon or short, heavy stick to knock on the clients’ doors or a long and light stick, often made of bamboo, to reach windows on higher floors. Some of them used pea-shooters. In return, the knocker-up would be paid a few pence a week. The knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until sure that the client had been awoken.
There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such as Manchester. Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols.
Photograph from Philip Davies’ Lost London: 1870 - 1945.