Mrs N. Jones (b.~1900): Researching Writing Lives

Getting to know Mrs N. Jones through close inspection of her handwritten letters to Burnett has been an exceptionally riveting experience. From familiarising myself with early 20th century colloquialisms to uncovering a corporate flooding catastrophe that triggered mass unemployment, researching the life of Mrs Jones has enhanced my empathy and understanding of working-class culture in the 1900s. Her autobiographical letters offer a rich report of working-class culture from multiple perspectives, on both an individual and collective viewpoint, as her writing becomes “as much the story of a parent or a family, as of the author’s life (Rogers and Cuming, 2019, p.5) while depicting the experiences of her family in copious detail. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring the intricate histories of my home county, Cheshire, through the life writing of Mrs Jones as she illustrates the difficult working conditions that she endured as a domestic servant in Hale, a familiar area that I have previously perceived as quaint and picturesque. Unveiling the exploitative work that has formed the foundation of these familiar places has shaken my perceptions of particular locations and has encouraged a curiosity for uncovering more information on working-class history. By contributing to the collaborative research project for the Writing Lives website I have been able to add depth to the structure of my findings, both physically and figuratively, as I have been able to link themes and ideas together through the literal employment of hyperlinks. This has aided in negotiating readers’ attention toward topics of interest while promoting myself as an author. Moreover, working collaboratively as a large cohort has provided inspiration for relevant topics, tone, and layout as I have been able to observe the fantastic efforts of my peers as they write engagingly, bring vibrancy to forgotten working-class voices.

Figure 1. Thatched roofing, Hale, Cheshire.

Having had previous experience with WordPress I was eager to develop the skills and knowledge that I had established through prior use of the software in alternative scholarly blogs. Though similar in foundation, I found navigating the Writing Lives website more challenging than the creation my individual blog, Once Upon A Crime, as I was conscious to carefully follow the established criteria of the website. With guidance from peers, I have been able to accurately utilise the resources available on Word Press by embedding widgets, hyperlinks, images and tags in order to professionally construct my blog posts. I have also refined my writing style to a vocabulary that is informative and engaging, with hopes to appeal to academics and curious readers alike.

Twitter has been a fantastic resource for promoting the collaborative research project for Writing Lives, I have been amazed by my peer’s generosity when commenting, liking, and retweeting my work, allowing me to, hopefully, reach a wider audience and gain recognition from like-minded academics. In turn, I have enjoyed promoting the work of my peers by retweeting and engaging with their twitter posts, their research has inspired and informed my own writing in many ways. 

Figure 2. Mrs N. Jones signing off.

I will truly miss investigating the life of Mrs N. Jones. Although her letters comprise only 2000 words, with every reading a new fragment of information has been unearthed. Because of this I have loved uncovering each new piece of Mrs Jones life, as every statement becomes a new prospect for enquiry and discovery. Her letters have been of great use in showcasing the cultural truths of 20th century working class lives, and have gratefully been “of help” (p.15) to our research.

Bibliography

Primary sources

Jones, N. ‘Two Autobiographical Letters’. The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, 1790-1945 (3 volumes). John Burnett, David Vincent, David Mayall (eds.). Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989. 2:0444. Available at: http://www.writinglives.org/uncategorized/mrs-n-jones-b-1900-biographical-entry

Secondary Sources 

Rogers, Helen and Cuming, Emily. ‘Revealing Fragments: Close and Distant Reading of Working-Class Autobiography’. Family & Community History 21:3 (February 2019), 180-201. 

Images

Figure 1. Thatched roofing, Hale, Cheshire. Available at: https://thatchinginfo.com/thatching-in-lancashire-cheshire/

Figure 2. Mrs N Jones signing off. Available at: http://www.writinglives.org/uncategorized/mrs-n-jones-b-1900-biographical-entry

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