Ellen Gill (1888-1988): Politics, Protest and Class

Within Ellen Gill’s memoir there are barely any definitive mention of her stance towards politics, and any dates that may have related to a historical moment within the political stature during this time. However, one could gain the impression that Ellen’s position within society was that of the stereotypical working-class women concerning the issues of feminism.

Women were less respected in the community than males, as they were behind the scenes almost, keeping the family unit together by taking care of the children and the housework such as cooking and cleaning. It was in fact, the male children rather than the women in a working class family that were expected to go out and partake in paid labour if the family was struggling for money.

Blitz_Canteen-_Women_of_the_Women's_Voluntary_Service_Run_a_Mobile_Canteen_in_London,_England,_1941_D2173As I mentioned in the Life and Labour post, Ellen was a member of the W.V.S, where females became one to contribute to the war efforts whilst their family members were out at war serving their country. Up until this time there were no equal rights between men and women and women could not vote becoming silent voices within society. Yet, after the war had ended the services that the women provided, voluntarily, were in a way rewarded and made them become noticed. Women were now able to vote however only those over the age of 30 were given this right. However this still gave a lot of women more opportunities in the work place, becoming non-reliant on their partners to help with family income. This also applied to Ellen, as we learn that she became a Sunday school teacher at one she use to attend herself, Woodhouse Carr, showing that society had made progression and were more aware of women employees rights making this a step in the right direction for political feminism.

In relation to Class, we can trace Ellen’s awareness throughout. Growing up with almost nothing, and fighting to stay out of poverty most of her life, we can see very clearly towards the end of her memoir the appreciation and respect that she has gained from her hardships. The presents that Ellen and Arthur receive on their Golden Wedding anniversary highlights a certain agency of class. Below, the presents as described in Ellen’s own words.


Ellen’s happiness is also shared through Arthur’s own words at the ending of his memoir, which presents the image that the simple things in life are more rewarding than having money.

‘I enjoy and appreciate the beauties of nature. I love a good landscape, Trees, grass, flowers and cloud effects. Whenever I have a walk into the country I see something that gives me pleasure. I can see the making of a lovely picture in old buildings, old churches, Abbeys etc. I still think there is a lot to live for. My wife Ellen is still with me (in her 81st year) Our 3 children and their partners, along with our 6 grandchildren are all doing well and have a deep affection for us. We are richly blest. What more can one ask for in this life?’



Gill, Ellen, ‘Ellen Gill’s Diary’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library,Vol. 1 No. 269

Gill, Arthur, ‘I remember! Reminiscences of a Cobblers Son’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library,Vol. 1 No. 268

Image one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Voluntary_Service

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