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A Way of Life: Who Digs?

From seashore to mountain wherever I roam,
Nothing pleases my taste,
like the Clams of my home;
Dug fresh from our sands
by a strong manly arm,
And by fair women chowdered
at Candlewood Farm.

-Excerpt from "The Succulent Clam," by A.Z., 1882

In the twentieth century and the decades preceding it, New England vacationers dug clams recreationally, as a family activity that was fun for children. On the commercial scale, however, the work of digging clams has largely belonged to men. During the summer months, some women dug while their husbands farmed or fished. Traditionally, women’s work was to develop masterful, clam-inspired recipes, such as the chowder mentioned in this poem. Historically, both women and men have done the work of shucking clams. Today in coastal Massachusetts, women from immigrant communities perform much of this labor for the commercial market.

Select the images below to learn more.

1882 Women Clamming
Burnham Family Shucking

Proceed to A Way of Life: The Future of Clamming.

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A Way of Life: Who Digs?