Dorothy Squires (B. 1897): An introduction

“There is so much I have missed out, but do hope that who ever reads it will amuse them for a few moments” (Untitled Memoir, p. 91)

Mrs Dorothy Squires was born on the 14th April 1897 in Waltham Cross. She was born the fourth child out of seven.

In her unnamed memoir she recounts key moments of her life, from birth until the writing of the memoir in 1976. She then carries on writing about her life in the form of a diary until after the death of her daughter in 1983, concluding the diary in 1984 with “my 2 bereavements in March and December, I haven’t felt well enough and had no intention of writing anymore”. The focus of her memoir is the meeting of and the love of her husband, her family, and how employment, love, war and illness affected them. She tells of all the interesting people she met along the way.

One of the stand-out details in this memoir is when Dorothy found herself working for a well-known American family as a housemaid. The husband of the woman she worked for was killed whilst travelling from America to England on board the Lusitania. Dorothy was not interested in the family’s film and play merits but remembered the husband “had previously produced a play called “Palash and Perlmutter” and had gone to America for another play” (20) and the guests that she served we all “nobilities of film fame” (21).

Dorothy lived through two world wars which caused the loss and injuries of loved ones at home and abroad. Her first love died in the first battle of the First World War. Her future husband was injured in both his deployments to the battlefield. These injuries become more and more pronounced as the memoir progresses and ultimately, she believes, took the life of her husband. She talks about how the war affected him mentally and physically, and how it affected people at home, living in an industrial part of London where the threat of bombings was constant.

Dorothy was taught and married at the same church and associated church school, Holy Trinity in Waltham Cross. Before leaving school she worked for her family and then as a cleaner and housemaid. She enjoyed her work and only left “gentleman’s service” at 17 as she thought she “should be doing something to help win the war” (22) so became a conductress on the trams and then a munitions worker. Following her marriage, in 1918, she had various part time positions at the post office and with an electrical company. The position she enjoyed most of all was with the co-operative movement. She was a volunteer, as a committee member, for the children’s circle. Her husband who was a hard worker struggled to find work following the war, but was given an opportunity at the Water Board due to his reputation as a hard worker.

Whilst choosing my author I was taken by Dorothy’s beautiful cursive handwriting. Although I was not sure that I could read it fully, I felt that I was able to gain a closer connection with her. As the memoir progresses her physical and mental health weakens, due to bereavement and age. This is reflected in her handwriting with misspelt words and deteriorating handwriting.

Dorothy’s memoirs are very detailed. They have dates, names and addresses for most of the important details of her life making it easy to find more information and look deeper into her life, and the life of the community, in her part of London.

Dorothy ends her memoirs after the premature loss of her daughter and son-in-law, who she believes died of a broken heart, as he “could not get-over losing my dear Joan and fretted” (141). The reason she was writing the memoir–for her “grand-daughter Jill” (1)—was not enough to carry on. Dorothy died in 1992, at the age of 96, cause unknown. Dorothy suffered losses throughout her life but one thing that remained constant was her faith in God. She believed that her fate lay in his hands and that God was merciful for allowing her extra time with her family members before they passed.

Although the end of Dorothy’s memoir is an emotional one and made me shed a tear, there are moments I found myself laughing with her about how she struggled to tell the difference between the type of spread on a sandwich which she believed to be butter, but “(could have been marg)” (4). And how she describes her love for chocolate and cakes! She was a very charitable woman and dedicated her life to raising a family and putting everyone’s needs before her own, even hoping to win on her premium bonds so she was able to “some real good, to a deaf institute” (60). As this autobiography covers every up and down in Dorothy’s life, I found it very interesting to read.


2:735 SQUIRES, Dorothy, Untitled, MS, pp.142 (c.18,000 words). Brunel University Library.


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