Emanuel Lovekin (1820-1905): Home and Family

Emanuel’s discussion about his family, in his memoir, was never the pinnacle point of it however it was mentioned throughout. Emanuel stayed shy when it came to talking about his home and family life as a young child. He implied that his father was the breadwinner while his mother stayed home and looked after Emanuel and all his siblings. Andrew August writes about the importance of family relationships in working-class culture: ‘The family, particularly relationships between mothers and children, also provided the emotional core of working-class life’. This can be said about Emanuel and his relationship with his mother. She is described as a ‘big strong woman and not cast down with a little thing’ however Emanuel said that she ‘struggled through with a family of 7 sons and two daughters, with a man that did not seem to take very little interest in home matters’. We can understand that Emanuel’s mother was the backbone of the family who, even though she did not supply the income, she carried them all with her strength and compassion. Emanuel and his siblings were ‘all under the controle of the mother who held a masterly hand.’ Thus, it was perhaps his mother who held the family life, and his childhood, together.

However it may have been the influence of his father’s working life that inspired Emanuel to become successful with his. At the mere age of 11 and a half year, he was ‘sent’ to work at a coal pit. Andrew August states that ‘Skill distinctions were closely linked to age and sex roles. The work of children played a crucial role in early industrialization, in mines, factories and domestic manufacturing.’ Not only did Emanuel have to work, but his younger brother also joined him at the age of 7 and a half years old. The Industrial Revolution therefore saw more and more children turning to work in order to help support their families. It is said that ‘children’s contributions to family income increased living standards, and in particular improved diets so compensating them for the disutility of work’ (Humphries, ). Therefore perhaps child labor ‘was the best available outcome for everyone, including the children themselves’ (Humphries, ). Emanuel’s upbringing as a child, even though he was working at a young age, may also indicate that he did have a comfortable upbringing as he was also bringing in the income in order for his family to live on.

Coal Mining

It was not until after he became injured and had to stay in bed for 13 weeks, that he decided that he wanted an education and so enrolled into a night school. Emanuel portrays that education for him, when he was younger, was something that was unattainable for boys like him. He said that he was ‘born when schooling was not thought very much of among the proper people, and there was but very few schools.’ Thus we can understand that Emanuel’s life as a child was helping him to prepare for working class conditions in which manual labor was necessary in order to earn a living and that education was seen as an activity and not a necessity.

Emanuel, as a young man, also had a large family with fourteen children to look after. He spends a great deal of his memoir discussing his children as adults with their own lives, without going in to great detail such as ‘the youngest child is going on in her 27th year now, married and one child doing moderately well.’ He discusses illnesses and family tragedies, where he talks about one son being a ‘black sheep’ of the family and also discusses how one child passed away before him. Although Emanuel does not ponder on the theme of his family life too much, it is evident that they are all a big part of who he is and what he did in life.



August, Andrew. The British Working Class 1832-1940. (Pearson Education Limited, Harlow, 2007)

Benson, John. The Working Class In Britain, 1850-1939. (Longman Group Limited, New York, 1989)

Coal Mining in England http://www.historyhome.co.uk/pictures/coal.jpg

Humphries, Jane. Childhood and Child Labour in the British Industrial Revolution Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010 (Introduction: http://wdn.ipublishcentral.net/cambridge_university_press2956/viewinside/35130136519253)

Lovekin, Emanuel. ‘Some notes of my life’, MS, pp.32 (c.7,000 words). Extract in J. Burnett (ed.), Useful Toil. Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s (Allen Lane, London, 1974), pp.290-6.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *