Emily Gertrude Lea (1902-1976): Politics, Protest & Class

Margaret Thatcher, political leader in Victorian Britain.
Margaret Thatcher, political leader in Britain.

Surprisingly absent from Lea’s memoir is the theme of politics. In spite of a large part of Lea’s memoir focusing on working life, Lea makes no comment how any job or wages she received could have been a result of class politics in Victorian England.  This could be due to Lea not being politically minded or feeling that the politics of the country had no great effect on any of her personal circumstances.

Having a smaller family than most other working class families, it is possible that Lea’s family were more comfortable than others in the same class, and thus felt less injustice at the political system and less likely to campaign for any major changes. Alternatively, a number of times throughout the memoir Lea has expressed a desire not to divulge any details she deems too personal such as her courtship with her husband, or the lives of her parents, so again Lea could be withholding any struggles or political views of her own seeing them as either insignificant or uninteresting to the general public.

Whilst Lea may have thought the politics had no effect her own upbringing, at one point it becomes clear that Lea has developed a working class consciousness when remarking about a comment of her aunts when she said “The working classes were a lazy lot” used to make me furious for, if people “work” how can they be lazy?”(11). Clearly defensive over judgement of her class, according to Mckibbin Lea here demonstrates a typical working class attitude which “was defensive rather than aggressive”.

Similarly, as Lea grows older and has a family of her own, she subconsciously succumbs to the Victorian working class family stereotype as she decides to leave work and become a domesticated wife whilst her husband is the breadwinner and works to provide for the family financially.

 

Lea, Emily Gertrude. ‘Reflections In the setting sun… I remember after fifty years’Burnett Archive of Working Class autobiography, University of Brunel Library, 2-469

McKibbin, R. (1998). Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

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  1. Margret Thatcher-http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10879520

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