I do think how different life could have been if father had not gone to throw rotten fruit at the preacher…’ (14)
In this second post on Habits, Culture and Belief, I will be talking about Mary’s own personal beliefs and habits, in particular her religious beliefs and her generational beliefs as both a young working class girl and through her adulthood.
As mentioned in my previous post, which you can read here, Mary’s father was a devout Christian who spent most of his Sundays in chapel. Mary’s mother was also religious and met Mary’s father at chapel as a young girl. Growing up with religious parents, it is clear through Mary’s memoir that she has become influenced by her parent’s religious beliefs, as she too becomes an active member of the local chapel: ‘Mother and Father encouraged us to join in everything at school and chapel’ (11). As Mary and her siblings grew up with religious parents, they too took on their religious beliefs and recognised the importance of god and attending chapel.
Although encouraged by their parents to attend chapel and practise Christianity, Mary and her siblings were never forced into their parent’s religious beliefs or in fact to attend chapel. This is shown as Mary talks of chapel as a positive part of her life and a way in which could participate in a ‘social life’ (11). Berry Mayall notes, ‘middle class parents were allowing their children some amusement on Sundays- tennis and reading; but that working class parents were often much stricter’ (Mayall, 2018, 113). This perhaps reflects the desire to escape the image of roughness that the working class had become associated with; see more about this in my last post. As Mayall notes that parents were strict in sending their children to chapel and Sunday school, this suggests that many working class parents did not want their children to take up these rough habits of drinking and gambling which had been typical of previous generations. Parents wanted their children to take up more socially accepted recreations. As Lauren Kennet talks of one of the other authors, Frank George Marling, she describes how his parents wanted Frank to ‘learn life-long values and to stay away from trouble’ (Kennet, 2018) through the Band of Hope. Here we can see an example of parents wanting their children to learn of socially and culturally accepted habits and beliefs through institutions of religion and beliefs.
It is clear that Mary’s parents were extremely pleased that Mary and her siblings were active members of the chapel as Mary writes, ‘Father was proud of us girls when we took part in anything at the chapel. I remember one anniversary as we came off the platform, someone saying “the Sutton girls were the best turned out children there’ (9). Through this we see
how important it was to Mary’s parents that their children had found socially respected habits and were able to learn the teachings of god. Chapel was clearly an important part of Mary’s family life and her parents did not want any of their children to go without what others had at the church. This is most evident as Mary describes how her ‘mother and father took on the work of chapel cleaning and general caretakers for 4&6 per week & that money was just to be sure we always had Sunday shoes’ (11). As Mary’s parents took on extra jobs to buy them Sunday shoes, this shows how important chapel was to the family and how her parents wanted her to have the best opportunities whilst socially interacting at chapel.
Whilst Mary notes her parent’s involvement in chapel at a young age, she does not say if they too attended chapel with her and her siblings. Although she mentions their pride and their encouragement, Mary’s parents are not noted to attend church themselves in their later life. Much as Callum G. Brown describes:
This was an extremely common pattern of a child having major connection to church organisations when neither parent attended church… In working class families, church connection was something entered into in childhood and teenage years, enjoyed during courtship (with many romances beginning at church) and then was put into suspension in the early years of marriage (Brown, 2001, 143).
As Mary’s parents aren’t noted to attend chapel with their children, this could the norm as Brown describes, but could also be down to both their illnesses, detailed in my Illness, Health and Disability post, which you can read here. Through Mary’s parents pride, this could reflect their happiness that their children are continuing their habits and have influenced their beliefs even though they are unable to attend church themselves.
It becomes clear that Mary carries on her faith into her adult life. She is a strong believer in God which is noted throughout her memoir. Whilst going through the loss of her parents, Mary’s belief in God did not change but instead she found strength and comfort in her religion. This is noted as her brother tells her ‘they walked with God’ (13) also showing her siblings connection with god and Christian faith. Similar to this, another author, Dorothy Squires, remained dependent on her faith as she went through the loss of her loved ones.
Mary reflects on her faith as she says ‘God is still good’ (18) by giving her the ability to still see the beauty of the countryside. She also reflects on how her life would have been different if god had not entered her father’s life, ‘I do think how different life could have been if father had not gone to throw rotten fruit at the preacher (But it really was a ripple in a pond & the ripples are still going. (But God threw it for him)’ (14). Through this we see how Mary believes that God and her religious beliefs have improved both her and her family’s lives and has allowed her to still see the beauty of a changing world.
It is in fact this changing world that Mary also comments multiple times upon within her writing. Mary shows a firm belief that the new generation of young people are very different, sometimes in a negative way. After talking about the value of money, Mary says, ‘how different this generation look at the things & am I right in feeling that greed is one of the biggest excuses for so much dissatisfaction & loss of peace and contentment?’ (17-18). She also asks, ‘where has the please and thank you gone?’ (28). Through this we see that Mary’s habits and beliefs as a young girl still carry through in her adult life, such as her polite habits and her belief that money is valuable. As Mary talks of these cultural changes in the new generation it becomes clear that although Mary describes some hardships in her early life, she wishes that the young of today could understand her generation more and take on some of their old ways.
Brown, Callum G. The Death of Christian Britain. London: Routledge, 2001.
Berry, Kylie. Dorothy Squires (b. 1897): Habits and Beliefs. Writing Lives. (Blog) www.writinglives.org/authors/23388 Date Accessed: 01/05/18.
Kennet, Lauren. Frank George Marline (1863-1954): Habits, Culture and Belief. Writing Lives. (Blog) www.writinglives.org/habits-culture-belief/frank-george-marling-1863-1954-habits-culture-and-belief#comment-538730 Date Accessed: 2/05/18.
Mayall, Barry. Visionary Women and Visible Children, England 1900-1920: Childhood and the Women’s Movement. Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
Thompson, Naomi. Young People and Church since 1900: Engagement and Exclusion. Oxon: Routledge, 2018.
1: 719 TRIGGLE, Mary Laura, Series of autobiographical letters, MS, pp.25 (c.4,000 words). BruneI University Library.
Sunday Shoes: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/230316968415316681/?lp=true
Chapel picture: https://www.heanorhistory.org.uk/cemetery.html