Mary Stewart (B.1909-): Habits, Culture & Belief

Although Mary does not go into any detail regarding her own recreational activities and does not appear to be in any way religious, she instead focuses her attention on Education and Schooling and Home and Family.

The only account of recreational activity Mary discusses is reading the Evening Chronicle, which at the time, were printing Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, “ serial”. Reading for the working classes in the early 20th century was becoming an increased recreational activity that the whole family could partake in. She describes reading it to her husbands family, who were illiterate: “She said whats that you’re reading. I told her, so she said would you read it to us.” [sic] Mary’s ability to read allows her to share time with those around her, which she appears to enjoy.

We are also able, to get a real feel for the local community of Collyhurst and how much it meant to her. We notice throughout her memoir, she takes note of each and every house she has lived in from her early childhood right through her adult life to her late retirement. One of many examples of this is as follows: “..2 up & 2 down in pilling st…stayed there 4 yrs, then got a house in Richardson Street, where Mays Pawnshop was and still is.”[sic] In vast detail she describes not only her own houses but her surroundings and neighbours. It is clear from her upbeat writing in these sections of her memoir that these people and places mean a lot to her, even in her later life reminiscing back.

Alcoholism is a prominent feature which appears throughout Mary’s memoir and can relate to the habits and culture of the working classes of the early 20th century. The working class had become associated with alcohol from the early 1900’s; it seemed to be a way they could escape the hardships of their own existence and their social gatherings often took place in the local pubs.

alcohol table

The first sign of alcohol use in Mary’s memoir is after her fathers return from World War One. She notes he had: “…taken to drink.” Sadly, the alcoholism her father partakes in is possibly a contributing factor to his untimely death at the age of 41, causative to his depression and eventual suicide.

The alcohol use in Mary’s life does not stop at her father, as it seems she falls for a man who upholds the same tendencies. She reveals to us when considering her husband: “He had been an alcoholic for years, but I had covered it up…” Unlike her own childhood, she does not want her children to experience the same beatings and hardships she received as a result of alcohol abuse. It seems however, no matter how hard Mary tried to steer her own children in the right direction, it was inevitable they would learn the same habit: “So did they shun the booze, not at all.”

It is to be noted that Mary does not discuss religious activities in her memoir and makes no note of attending Sunday Schools or partaking in religious festivities. Unlike other working class auto biographers of the time, it seems religion does not play an important part in Mary’s life.


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