Milkmaids were the real powerhouse behind the dairy industry. They weren’t simple delivery girls bringing the milk round to the doorstep. No, these maids were the cowgirls of the day. They actually tended the cows, they milked them and they turned the milk into various dairy products for final sale.
They also had a good chance of contracting cowpox which was much milder than smallpox, but also rendered the maid immune to smallpox. It was often noted that they had fairer skin than the average lady of the day and the phrase “smooth as a milkmaid’s skin,” was the impetus that led Edward Anthony Jenner, the father of immunology to develop a smallpox vaccine from the cowpox sores of a milkmaid. The milkmaid was, in a very real sense, the mother of immunology.
With all that they had to offer, this was certainly a gift worthy of true love.
On the Eighth Day of Christmas
My True Love Gave to Me,
Eight Maids a Milking.