Recently, I have been told by a few people to try and look at the Silver Lining to the little cloud that rests upon my head a lot of the time. This is good advice, and it is something that I do regularly. One of the things I do when I am thinking how hard my life is, is to think about how women coped with what life had to throw at them in the past. I guess this comes from me being an archaeologist and all. But it is something that is worth considering, just as a woman.
I have read tons of books on the subject, but since becoming pregnant with Toddler Boy there is one book which I keep coming back to and which I think every mother should own. The book is called Maternity; Letters From Working Women. This is a link to a FREE download (absolutely above board as far as I can see). It was published in 1915 and is a series of absolutely amazing letters written by women (all members of the Women’s Co-operative Guild). The letters tell of childbirth, death, the lack of pre-natal care, poverty and the general despair felt by women at the turn of the Twentieth century. In short they are frankly an amazing record of women’s life and they really make you think about your life now. One wonders how these women kept going and admires their determination, tenacity and drive in the most awful circumstances. What is so frightening, is that it really isn’t that long ago. These women would certainly have been contemporaries of my great grandparents.
I have copied a couple of extracts below to whet your appetite. Please give it a read, it will really make you think. If you do, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
“ The first part of my life I spent in a screw factory from six in the morning till five at night; and after tea used to do my washing and cleaning. Left two weeks before my first children were born. After that I took in lodgers and washing, and always worked up till an hour or so before baby was born. The results are that three of my girls suffer with their insides. None are able to have a baby….my husbands wages varied… and has been paid away in drink. I had three little ones in two years and five months and he [the husband] was out of work two years… I took in washing and sewing and have not been near a bed for night after night…”
“… I have just heard the following case;A poor woman, only twenty eight years of age, was confined last Wednesday with her seventh child, all living. She has been allowed to live in a deplorable cottage that is condemned. She has been living near for about 4 years, but myself and my neighbours have never seen her nor the two youngest children, aged two and a half years and fifteen months, and we are told they have no clothes to come out in. These two children were born in the workhouse infirmary…. a poor woman who is attending to the other children until the baby is born has taken the blanket from her own baby to lend her...”