Jessie Ravenna Sharman (b. 1892): Habits, Culture & Belief

Little is revealed entailing Jessie Sharman’s religious beliefs in her memoir, although she does make the point that she was christened Jessie Ravenna Jones. From this, it is evident that her mother was a Christian and deemed it necessary to christen her daughter into the Christian faith also.

Throughout Sharman’s autobiography, one cannot ignore how knowledgeable and articulate she is. As she describes each stage of her schooling, is it evident that she is extremely educated and cultured. As part of her education, she informs her audience of some of the literature she has read – one of which is the famous work of Lord Alfred Tennyson: The Idylls of the King. Sharman explains how her class were ‘sent home for a week to read, mark and inwardly digest the volume.’ (Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 4). From this, one is made aware that she enjoyed reading and becoming educated.

The Idylls of the King, Lord Alfred Tennyson
The Idylls of the King, Lord Alfred Tennyson

Sharman was not only a well-educated, passionate reader but also a keen piano player. This was obviously a skill she was very proud of, as she says ‘[we] were asked questions, particularly if we could play piano, and I was able to show my piano playing certificate when I gained an Honours award in the Elementary Section.’(Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 4). The headmaster of St. Peter’s school, which she attended, was the founder and musical director of the Norwich Operatic Society; this was an advantage to her which strongly worked in Sharman’s favour. Sharman reminisces about times where she would play piano in front of the whole school, while her headmaster conducted; she was evidently a very ardent and confident pupil, with much expertise at playing the piano.

Beale upright piano in a typical 1920's setting
Beale upright piano in a typical 1920’s setting

As part of her role as a teacher in St. Peter Parmentergate Senior Mixed School, Sharman explains how she was instructed to take some of the male pupils to play a game of football. Although it is also mentioned that she was only asked because there were no male teachers available. A clear segregation between the sexes was highly evident at this time, as this reveals. Sharman then goes on to explain that when she suggested to the pupils that she would take on the role of a referee, they replied, in what could be assumed by some a mocking and misogynistic tone, ‘That’s alright, Miss, we’ll tell you when to blow the whistle!’ (Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 7) Although Sharman doesn’t seem to acknowledge this reply to be condescending, it does show the sexism apparent in society at this time, with regards to common interests.

Bibliography:

618 SHARMAN, Jessie Ravenna, ‘RecolIections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman’, TS, pp.8 (c.2,000 words). BruneI University Library.

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