Edna Bold (b.1904): An Introduction

The opening of Edna Bold’s memoir (1).

My name is Hayley Delahunt and I am a student from Manchester studying at Liverpool John Moores University. I have chosen to study the life of Edna Bold because I saw a reflection of myself in her memoir. Amongst the obvious connection, that we are both from Manchester, I identified with her journey of self-discovery.

Edna Bold was born into a respectable working class family from Beswick, Manchester, in 1904.  Bold wrote her unpublished autobiography in 1978, entitled THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT BEING RECOLLECTIONS AND REMINISCECES OF EDNA BOLD . It is a 40,000 word typed memoir.

Bold’s life is typical of many from her time who “made a transition from working class to lower middle class”[1]. Bold presents herself as very intelligent and in her memoir we follow her development as she moves on to secondary school and ultimately trains to become a teacher. Bold’s memoir serves to prove the notion that it is a misconception that people of the working class in the early 20th century were inarticulate and illiterate. Her wish for self-improvement provides an inspiring tale for which people from the working class today can still relate to.

When talking of her early life Bold says “My twin brother and I had no sense of deprivation as we roamed and played in the labyrinth of mean, intricate streets”(2). Bold found Manchester “at once a terrible, beautiful, exciting place”(3) and she describes her childhood and self-discovery as a happy time. Reading her memoir took me back to my childhood and reminded me of a ‘simpler time’. Bold states that she and her brother “were as innocent as Adam and Eve”(20) though they lose their innocence when another child tells them about sex. Humorously she recalls that they called it ‘Seks’ and goes on to say that the “fear and revultion of ‘Seks’ crippled and shunted [their] natural appetite”(21), a revolution we all remember as a child. Bold’s memoir seems to be much more than an account of working class life. For me, it is a coming of age tale.

Manchester tram, 1900's. "The sound of trams rattling and clanging into the town"(1).
Manchester tram, 1900’s.
“The sound of trams rattling and clanging into the town”(1).

Reading Bold’s memoir provides an interesting account of the historical context of her time. It can be used as evidence that the 1900’s was a time when religion and understanding of science underwent dramatic changes. Bold confesses she “questioned the existence of God”(51) showing a rebellious side to her puritanical family. When Bold reached adolescence she embarked on a journey to find her identity through art and music. Bold talks about Lowry and her love for art. Her interest in music began in secondary school when she discovered Beethoven but she also discusses popular music in her chapter on ‘The Whole Scene Going’. Bold dedicates a chapter to ‘The Beatles’ who she says “thought of themselves “as famous and influential as Jesus” (John Lennon)”(83). This is when she became “fascinated… with the ‘whole scene going’”(88). Bold’s discussions of “flower power”(91), “one night stands”(92) and the drug lifestyle that came with pop music provides a firsthand account of the popular culture of the 1960’s. This is an interesting account of the changes in music through different generations.

The Beatles, 1962.
The Beatles, 1962.

In her conclusion Bold says “what pain and suffering have laced my days have been excluded from these pages”(np). When studying the conditions of the working class, hardship is usually a central focus. The exclusion of suffering makes Bold’s memoir different from many memoirs of the working-class. It will be interesting to see if my research finds any of the life events that she has excluded.

Instead of focussing on pain and suffering, Bold’s memoir appears to be a tribute to the people who influenced her life. She confesses “I loved my father more than I loved God”(28) and tells us that her direction in “life began in [her] Grandmothers kitchen”(33). Bold discusses meeting Jack and Belle Corlette who inspired her to become a teacher, and talks about her cousin Dorothy who she says was “more like a sister”(18). Although Bold does move into lower middle class, her working-class up bringing appears to be the roots that made her who she was. Bold was successful in her wish for self improvement and therefore remains an inspirational member of the working class. The sentimentality of Bold’s memoir made it easy for me to identify and connect with her, therefore, I felt it was only right to preserve and share her tale.

[1] Religion and Respectability: Sunday Schools and Working Class Culture, 1780-1850. Yale, University Press, 1976. Pg. 293.

Bold, Edna. THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT BEING THE RECOLLECTIONS AND REMINISCECES OF EDNA BOLD. July 27th 1978. Found at The Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, at Brunel University.

N.B. All images link to their original source.


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