Annie Lord (b.1899): Life and Labour – Part Two

“… it was hard work But we got good food and that was the main thing those days, I can Rem[em]ber the Boss saying, get it down you…” 

Lord, p: 3
A domestic servant, attending to duties, similar to what Annie was assigned to do.

As a result of her strong and stable, working-class upbringing, Annie did not shy away from hard work and she was completely aware that in order to live comfortably and earn a stable wage, she must be prepared to work hard, long and unsociable hours. This did not seem to bother Annie, as when she talks about the jobs she had throughout her lifetime, she does so with a positive tone.

Despite being willing and happy to work, it is clear that after her marriage to John, she believed she would retire back into the household and become a full-time housewife. This is apparent when she states, “I left (service) to get married at the age of 25 years…” (Lord, p: 3). Thus, Annie believed that married life would position her firmly at home to cook, clean and care for her husband and possible children. This did not happen for Annie. After finding out two years into the marriage that her husband was both mentally and physically crippled by the war,  Annie had no choice but to go back to work and leave her husband at home, “I had to be the Bread Winner as he never had Regular job all all his life pushed and shoved around all his life which did not help and he only got £1,,0,,0 Pension a Week…” (Lord, p: 4). Furthermore, the role of the man and the woman, completely reversed throughout Annie and John’s relationship. Annie had to go to work in order to put food on the table, whilst John remained at home due to his disabilities. 

Additionally, Annie highlights that after the birth of her four children, working life got progressively harder for her. This was due to the fact that John did not and would not try and help or assist Annie in any way, due to his injuries. Thus, she had to make sure that she attended work, in order to earn money, to feed her family. As well as this, due to John’s lack of support, Annie was forced to take her children to work with her, stating that they; “… use[d] to have to Play in the ladies garden.” (Lord, p: 4). Moreover, when Annie arrived home, she then had to cook and clean and perform all the usual domestic duties that a good housewife would. Due to the lack of rest and the constant pressure to support her family on her own, her love of working life faded. Whereas, Annie would previously document all of the things she loved about her job, now she documented the negative aspects of working such extreme hours, “I did the work 3 hours and 2/6 money… I[‘]ve had Blisters all over my Hands Beating carpets…” (Lord, p: 4). Thus, despite previously trying to make the best out of a bad situation, it appears as though Annie has lost her sense of purpose and is frequently exhausted due to the life she was forced to lead.

Annie’s spelling and syntax is fairly poor throughout the majority of her memoir. However, it appears to deteriorate further when she speaks about her working life after marriage. David Vincent, suggests a reason for this throughout his article, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: Study of Nineteenth Century Working Class Autobiography. He highlights how, “As a generalization, the less literate the writer, and the less he was involved in specific activities of self-improvement or political activity, the greater his preoccupation with the details of his life as a worker…” (Vincent, p: 62). This highlights just how drastically work consumed Annie. So much so, she has no time to think of anything other than providing for her family by going to work.

To conclude, after her marriage, Annie want to work, evaporated. Instead of viewing her working life as something she enjoyed and looked forward to, she eventually only saw it as a burden, as something she must do in order to give her children a good life. Like so many things throughout her life, Annie’s love of work only fades after she marries John, ultimately highlighting the way he treated her and the negative affect he had on her life. In short, her toxic marriage tainted the rest of her life, as it only caused Annie pain and suffering.

Works Cited:

Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486.

Vincent David (1982). Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: Study of Nineteenth Century Working Class Autobiography. London: Routledge. 62-232.

Images Used:

A maid at work. From, A Visitor’s Guide to Victorian England:

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