The author whose work I have chosen to explore is Jessie Ravenna Sharman and her autobiography Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman. I was initially drawn to Sharman’s memoir, which is in the form of a typed manuscript, as she writes mainly about her work as a teacher during both World War One and Two, which she recalls with much nostalgia.
Sharman was born in Norwich on June 1, 1892. She was named after her mother and her middle name, Ravenna, was plucked from a book her mother had read. Sharman informs us of her first memories she could recall when she was almost two years old. In this recollection, she talks about a strange woman in her house, Alice, whom her mother had brought into their household. Also at this age, Jessie Sharman’s brother, Edward, was born. It seemed that Jessie was jealous of her brother initially, as she was no longer an only child and no longer took up all of her mother’s attention.
Like other children of this generation, Sharman started school at the age of three. It seems she thoroughly enjoyed her infant school life, which influenced her initial decision to enter the teaching profession herself. Sharman explains in her autobiography how she initially came to the decision of becoming a teacher in quite a flippant and comical way. Her decision came about when she witnessed her teacher, Miss Burwood, counting money and constructing neat piles of coins. Sharman marvelled at the amount of money her teacher had and made it her aim to become a teacher herself. Miss Burwood also gave Sharman a silver threepenny for answering the questions raised in class, following a Science lesson on volcanoes, which was an overwhelming amount of money for a child at this time.
After years of teacher training and experience being a pupil teacher, Sharman became a fully qualified teacher in 1912. She was happy at St. Peter School, until World War One broke out in 1914. After three years in her profession, in 1915, Sharman married, although she exposes little detail of her domestic life. Her husband had joined the forces. He was in the Royal Ordnance Corps and was away at war for three years.
Teaching continued to be Sharman’s career path until 1921. Her reason behind leaving the education system temporarily was to have the first of her three sons. She didn’t resume her teaching career for twelve years, until her son was four and a half years old. As her husband had developed tuberculosis in 1940, Sharman started teaching ‘on supply’ in order to support her family. Sharman retired from teaching on her sixtieth birthday in 1952.
618 SHARMAN, Jessie Ravenna, ‘RecolIections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman’, TS, pp.8 (c.2,000 words). BruneI University Library.