Emily Gertrude Lea (1902-1976) Introduction

At the age of fifty, Emily Gertrude Lea decided to pen her own memoir to reflect and record important memories from her life. Titled ‘Reflections in the setting sun… “I Remember”’ Lea’s memoir commences in 1902 and spans seventy-four years until her death in 1976. Lea was born and raised in Nottingham, the same city as me, which thus sparked an immediate interest and made me keen to explore further, I was intrigued to learn about the history of the city and its progression throughout the years, especially through war times.


Nottinghamshire, Nottingham, Market 1900's  http://www.oldukphotos.com/nottinghamshire_nottingham.htm

Image: Nottingham in 1900’s

Born September 16th 1902 in Wellingborough Nottingham, Lea was the youngest of two, with her older brother Albert preceeding her by three years. A small and close family, Lea doesn’t delve into her parents’ occupation, however, whilst they were working class we are given the impression that the family managed comfortably as her childhood recollections paint a fairly happy picture, with no mention of money troubles and funds even being raised for her elder brother to enjoy a part paid scholarship to  work in Canada.

Lea recounts many playful tales of her childhood including times when the children would clamber into bed with their father on a Sunday for a “big treat” and “play wonderful games” whilst their mother was at church. It becomes clear the important part religion played  in Lea’s life as early on she mentions “Sundays was not like the other day of the week. Mother had very strict views on the subject”.  Lea’s memoir allows us to explore the role religion played in the 20th century, including the development of the High Church. Throughout, we can see how religion shaped Lea’s upbringing and outlook on life as it influences not only her schooling but also her marriage.

Short but sweet, lasting only seven years, Lea’s also takes us through her education and fondness for school despite it being cut short at the tender age of thirteen. Lea expereinced an early introduction to employment which allows us to learn about a variety of  industries and explore the different types of work available during the twentieth century. Her later employment change to a housemaid for a wealthy family also enables us to be privy to the life of the upper-classes and explore the cultural differences between the two.

20th century radioWith Lea’s life spanning over four coronations, the Great Strike and both World Wars we get to see firsthand how the working classes reacted and really felt about these historic events. Alongside this, each coronation highlights the gradual progression of entertainment throughout the century; from the first radio broadcast to the introduction of cinema, we can share the excitement over the development of technology in buildup to today’s modern cinemas.

Historically rich, Lea’s memoir makes for an interesting read as we delve into firsthand account of life for the working class in the 20th century.

Images :

  1. Nottingham in1900s;  http://www.oldukphotos.com/nottinghamshire_nottingham.htm
  2. Radio from 20th Century; http://www.radiomuseum.org/r/electrodev_20th_century_101.html

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