Harrison McMillan, May 2, 2019 Researching Writing Lives, Miss P. Wilson
It was difficult to find an author whose story truly captured my interest. I wished to find someone who had their own hidden pocket of history complete with enthralling anecdotes. What made me decide on Miss Wilson initially was the opportunity to learn about The Royal Order of The Buffalo. It sparked a level of intrigue in me as I hoped to uncover something extraordinary to contrast against the regular banality of working class life during the turn of the twentieth century. It hinted at a degree of hope in an otherwise bleak scenario. The Royal Order of The Buffalo gave Miss Wilson’s family support that allowed them, in spite of their social standing, to prosper.
Although my interest was sparked in learning about her familial ties to The Order, one of the most fascinating parts of learning about Miss Wilson’s life was the period she and her family lived in. Although born during the latter stages of the First World War and Living through the second, it does not come into Miss Wilson’s autobiography whatsoever. What was more interesting was using this time period as a an anchor, using it to help broaden my understanding of what life as shop owners and mill workers was like during the turn of the last century.
This aptly leads into what the most interesting part of Writing Lives was for me. It was a balance between working through academic journals and what sources are accessible online. Researching for Writing Lives was an extremely rewarding process. With online tools like Manchester Historical map finder it became and enjoyable process trying to figure out where exactly Miss Wilson was talking about. If the setting for this research was more formally based- an academic journal for instance- then many of the tools and formats I used wouldn’t be as useful. But by having them set in blogs, I can use tools like the map finder and give my readers an opportunity to access these sources themselves and even use them for other means. In this vein I loved the interactivity in Writing Lives, it asked you to delve deeper into your authors lives than a regular essay and asked you to look past the overt, into the deeper context of what they were saying. With different types of maps and ways to narrow your search criteria, it gives everyone an opportunity to see the blatant differences between areas and their modern day counterparts.
With our current era being so bonded to the use of technology and social media, it became apparent to me that the utilisation of these mediums could be an asset to fledgling historical writers. In this sense, the use of public forums and social media where students can read each other’s work and collaborate on specific research is a great benefit to courses such as Writing Lives.
The interactive nature of using social media as a tool was an interesting discovery for me. Personally, I have always struggled to use social media out of confidence, but as a tool for inspiring me to do research it was second to none. If I ever struggled with a topic or perhaps finding a resource, it became increasingly common that I would check out the Writing Lives community that formed on twitter. There were always people discussing their authors and topics and I believe I would have struggled a great deal more without the support of having a direct link to my classmates. Although I had struggled with speaking to people directly on twitter, it became an invaluable tool in telling Miss Wilson’s story effectively.
Before undertaking this module, I had no experience with blogging. It forced me to examine my own writing and style in order to convey a tone I had little experience in. It had given me to tools to interact more freely on social media, write entertaining pieces more effectively and even learn how to transcribe a piece of text. In all I am very grateful to have taken the Writing Lives module as it has given me confidence in my own research ability.
Being my final module this year, my university experience is now over. Retrospectively, I believe I will take the most with me in the future from this course. It has given me confidence in places I lacked before and challenged me to think about my own research and writing through a different lens. Transcribing Miss Wilson’s autobiography taught me about myself and even where my family grew up. It has been a privilege to go on this journey with her and to cement her- and her family- into their rightful place in history.
- Joyce Goodman, “Women, Educational Policy Making and Admisistration in England- Athoratative women since 1800”, Page ten, Routledge
- Davies, leisure, gender and poverty: working-class culture in Salford and Manchester, 1900-1939
- S. Pedersen, The appearance of women’s politics in the correspondence pages of Aberdeen newspapers 1900-1914
- Miss P. Wilson Autobiography, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library