Alice Maud Chase was a reasonably educated and knowledgeable lady. She makes religious references from the outset of her memoir and the Bible appears to be the initial reading point in her life. She starts school in September 1885, aged five. And, it becomes clear to the reader that she was fairly self-educated as she read a lot of books; ‘[I] read all I could lay my hands on’ (p.20). She attended what appears to be a small, independently run school, probably for younger children as she explains in her memoir, ‘Mama took us to see some ladies who kept a little school in Castle Road’ (p.14).
Unfortunately, Alice and her sister only attended the school for around seven weeks. They contracted whooping cough and were subsequently bed bound until the following March. When they recovered only her older sister Ruby returned to school. Alice did not return until she was eleven years old. Probably this was due to her being sicker than Ruby, yet the seven year gap is never explained. Nevertheless, she restarts school in 1891, aged eleven, and leaves in 1894, aged fourteen and a half. 1894, she adds, ‘was to be my last year at school and I had to make the most of it’ (p.29). This suggests that she embraced and enjoyed her schooling experience and wanted to gain from it all that she could before she entered the world of work. Alice remarks ‘I was very happy at school and did not want to leave’ (p.25).
Although her formal schooling was short, Alice received an alternative education through the Sunday School she began attending in 1887 when she was about seven. She and her sister attended Elm Grove Baptist Sunday School – ‘heaven’ (p.23) – where they remained for ‘twelve happy and contented years in an atmosphere of love, peace and joy’ (p.23). Alice describes her teachers at Sunday School as being ‘of good education’ (p.23) and ‘angels’ (p.30). She explains ‘I was so happy on a Sunday… it was a taste of Heaven’ (p.30). It is obvious that Sunday School meant a lot to her as a young child growing up in Portsmouth and she expresses her grief at having to give it up when she gets a full time job; ‘I had been forced by circumstances to give up my interests in Chapel and Sunday School’ (p.37). Her religion would appear to be the pinnacle of her life and education.
Alice’s involvement with Sunday Schools and chapel did not cease completely when she started work. Sunday School shaped her identity, and appears to have paved the pathway for her life, more so than her education at school. Alice would talk of her religious beliefs, her political persuasion and her readings of the Bible and other literature at work and with her friends. She explains that in work, ‘we discussed religion and politics and books’ (p.32). Like many former Sunday School pupils she became a Sunday School teacher and ran a Bible Class for girls (p.47). Sunday School also gave her the opportunity to write. She proudly says that when she was a Sunday School teacher she ‘[wrote], produced, made the dresses and scenery for six pantomimes’ (p.50) as well as writing and producing ‘two “Services of Song” for their Anniversary Sunday’ (p.50).
Alice’s involvement with Sunday Schools is evident throughout her life. It clearly made her very happy; ‘as I did in my childhood, I just lived for Sundays’ (p.39). Her education at school, although evidently positive is not placed on the same significant and influential pedestal as Sunday School. It is fair to say that Sunday School had the greatest influence upon her life; not only in regards to her education but also her moral approach to life and her writing style and tone.
Image 1: Elm Grove Baptist – http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/elm-grove-baptist-church-24986
Image 2: Elm Grove Baptist – http://www.hantsphere.org.uk/ixbin/hixclient.exe?a=query&p=hants&f=generic_fullsizeprint_fr.htm&_IXFIRST_=4180&_IXMAXHITS_=1&m=quick_sform&tc1=i&partner=hants&tc2=e&s=DGhgadM6yYp