Olive Doris Gold (1897-1977): War, Memory & Life Writing

ww2-women-factoriesLiving through a World War no small feat, but Olive managed to live through both. Olive first mentions how war impacted her life by saying, ‘…war talk was in the air, and we never thought it would hit us so hard.’ (13) The first change made was jobs that men did were now available for women. She says, ”One day I saw an advert outside this factory for a ‘clicker’. Now the uppers of boots and shoes are mostly cut out on a bench with patterns laid on the hide and cut out with a sharp knife. This has always been done by men…’ (13) As always, Olive was underpaid for this work, which is explained in more detail here.

In 1917 her love interest, Billie was stationed in France and killed. She writes, ‘We would like to have got married, but he had no more leave until his birthday at the end of May. (13) Besides from this, Olive never does let the war have a big impact on her life. She never writes of emotions she felt during his death nor any of any turmoil that occured while living in through the World Wars. Olive’s lack of confronting her environment in a visceral manner has been discussed many times throughout this blog, such as here. (image source)

Olive’s approach to understanding the war may not be typical, but her life was so sheltered and uneventful that perhaps not having much real exposure to it caused her to never realise the severity of it. For Olive, ignorance was bliss maybe, the war just meant jobs being available in factories. Like always, Olive’s writing style makes it seem as if she is stoic, even when writing about the war.

Gold, Olive Doris, ‘My Life’, The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography (Brighton: Harvester, 1987). Vol 2. Number 321.

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