"dressed as a match-girl"

Match girls were the women and young girls who worked in factories manufacturing matchsticks (matches).

Friction matches had been invented in 1826, and matches made with white phosphorus in 1831. Unfortunately, the use of white phosporus led to the horrific health problem known as phossy jaw in workers involved in match manufacture.

In July 1888, the matchgirls of the Bryant and May factory at Bow in East London (who had organised themselves as the Matchgirls' Union with the help of the socialist activist Annie Besant) went on strike in protest about this issue and other injustices in their working conditions.

Girls who sold matches on the street were also known as match girls.

'The Lucifer Match Girl' (1861-1862)
Public Domain'The Lucifer Match Girl' (1861-1862) - Credit: Henry Mayhew