E. Cobham Brewer 18101897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
A woman. Properly the staff from which the flax was drawn in spinning. The allusion is to the ancient custom of women, who spun from morning to night. (See SPINSTER.)
The crown of France never falls to the distaff.Kersey.
To have tow on the distaff. To have work in hand. Froissart says, Il aura en bref temps autres estoupes en sa quenouille.
He haddë more tow on his distaf
Than Gerveys knew.
Chaucer: Canterbury Tales, 3,772.
St. Distaffs Day. The 7th of January. So called because the Christmas festival terminated on Twelfth Day, and on the day following the women returned to their distaffs or daily occupations. It is also called Rock Day, a distaff being called a rock. In old times they used to spin with rocks. (Aubrey: Wilts.)