“I was very bright, I could remember that, because they never beat me at school, because all my arithmetic, I could do it” (9)
Louise Shore grew up in rural poverty with fifteen brothers and sisters, many of whom had to work in order to feed their siblings. Despite this, Louise and her siblings were able to and did go to school. Louise’s mother realised the importance of education for her children: “She made us go to church and go to school and Sunday school” (10). During the early twentieth century, especially amongst the rural working class it was not that unusual for children to not receive even the most basic of education and so Louise and her siblings were rather privileged in this sense. However, because there was only Louise’s mother left to care and provide for all sixteen children, many of them had to work or stay at home to look after their younger siblings thus interrupting their education. Although Louise does not mention it specifically, it is highly likely that many children in her town did not stay in education for very long, perhaps only until they were of an age when they were old enough to work and contribute towards their family’s income. During this time, work and earning money often took precedence over education just out of sheer necessity.
The school Louise went to was called “Time and Patience school” (12) which suggests a rather relaxed and gentle approach to learning. Louise progressed well in school: “they skip me from first class to second class” (12). She was particularly good at writing: “I used to write very quick – I don’t know why I get so backward” (12). Looking back as an adult on her childhood, Louise knew her literacy skills suffered as a result of her not finishing her education. It limited her in her job opportunities and it meant someone else had to write the memoir she had always dreamed of producing.
Time and Patience school, taken from page 13 of Shore’s memoir
Louise was only punished once throughout her school life, “that’s the only time I get hit in school” (12). She was attempting to help another student who was struggling with her work: “I did neglect mine, and did hers” (12). Her teacher noticed and “him just hit me over my shoulder, and tell me I shouldn’t help, I should try to do mine” (12). This suggests that education was viewed as an individual activity where as today group is a prominent part of school life, and education is considered more of a collective effort.
It is fairly obvious that Louise enjoyed school: “I did like all my teachers” (12). She seems to acknowledge that she was very fortunate to receive an education at a time when many others just went straight into work or physical labour. This shows how perhaps education is more appreciated when it is a privilege rather than compulsory as so many children in present day begrudge going to school. However, Louise experienced a long illness and as a result her school life came to an early end. Although she could have gone back to school she felt she had passed the appropriate age: “when you reach a certain age and you feel you pas a child age, you don’t feel like go back” (13). Louise’s lack of a full education is apparent in the way she speaks and the language she uses and as an adult, she turns to the Hackney Reading Centre to finally continue the studies she enjoyed so much as a child.
“Yes, I remember saying that my ambition was to write a book. If I had a proper education, you know. I wanted to do that actually from when I was home…About my life and things that happen to me. But sometimes I feel I don’t have the courage to do it, because the things that people might think or people might say, I scared of that.”(5)
Louise Shore, Pure Running: a Life Story, Hackney Reading Centre at Centerprise (1982). Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:707.