Jessie Ravenna Sharman (b. 1892): Home & Family

When reading Jessie Ravenna Sharman’s autobigraphy, it becomes quite visible that there is an absence of detail surrounding her home and family life, particularly during her adult life. Very little is revealed when it comes to the relationships between family members present within her household.

Sharman, at the beginning of her memoir, explains how she witnesses a ‘strange woman’ (page 1, Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman) in her family home in Norwich, when she was a child of less than two years old. The way in which she recalls such a vivid memory is quite remarkable, considering her being of such a young age. It seems that the woman she describes works for her mother in the household as a nanny. ‘She said she was only a big girl who was allowed to leave school to help in a home.'(page 1, Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman) Having a nanny in a working-class household at this time would have been considered quite uncommon, so in some ways it could be argued that Sharman’s family didn’t necessarily conform to the standards of other working-class families; were they at the higher end of the spectrum and more eligible for social mobility?

Jessie Sharman’s brother, Edward, also joined the Jones family when Sharman was one year old. Like many older siblings, Jessie showed signs of jealousy after his arrival. She was no longer an only child and her mother’s attention wasn’t focused primarily on her. ‘I heartily disliked him on sight, especially when I saw mother attending to him.'(page 1, Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman) Although Jessie mentions the birth of her first brother, there is an omission of information surrounding the whereabouts of her father and he is not mentioned until she explains how her parents were financially able to fund her tuition, in order to gain her teaching qualifications.

Sharman married her husband, who remains nameless in her autobiography, in 1915 at the age of 23 years old. As they married a year after the outbreak of World War One, he was away at war for the first few years of their marriage. Sharman expresses her distress with this sensitive period of her life, as she informs us of her concern when she was unaware of his whereabouts due to a serious lack of communication. ‘…we received no letters or new from the soldiers at this time and were left to guess their whereabouts.”(page 7, Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman)

Sharman reveals in her memoir that she left her position in the teaching profession in 1921, at the age of 29, in order to mother the first of her three sons. She didn’t return until her third son was four and a half years old. In total, Sharman was absent from the teaching profession for twelve years. With a rather nostalgic tone, Sharman explains how she ‘had a busy life’ and had watched her sons come of age and become settled into their own adult lives. The motherly way in which she talks about her own sons, she also talks about her pupils. She seems to be a proud, maternal figure to both her own children and the students she taught. ‘…it only seems like yesterday, I said goodbye to my class of forty-nine!!'(page 8, Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman It is as though she saw her pupils not only as a way in which she earnt a wage, but also as part of her family.

 

Bibliography:

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

 

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