Anita Elizabeth Hughes (born 1892): Purpose and Audience

Anita Hughes wrote her autobiography in the 1970s, when she was nearing the end of her life. It is not clear from her writing why Hughes decided to write her autobiography but the evidence seems to suggest  she was lonely after the death of her husband: “Since Frank died…I have been on my own” (15). As well as not having a clear reason to why she wrote her memoir, Anita also does not seem to have any clear aims for her writing, except for her own pleasure. Perhaps she simply wants to remember her life before her age restrains her from doing so. It is written in an important time of her life, spending her time with her children but often alone. She was glad to have “my dear daughter…in the next house to me’ to ‘take away loneliness” (15).

Anita focuses on her childhood for the majority of her autobiography and in the later part of her writing she focuses on the family she started with her husband. It is clear that family is the most important aspect of her life. Probably she is not only writing for herself but also she is writing on behalf of her family but she is also in a way talking for all working class families.

The historian Jonathan Rose believes the writing of the working class is in important: “these sources open up a new scholarly frontier” (Rose, 51). Their memoirs allow readers to understand life from a subject group that has been primarily silent in the world of literature. However, Rose is clear that the memoirs are not representative of all working class “Memoirists are not entirely representative of their class (whatever class they may be)” (51). So while Anita Hughes’s memoir is an excellent starting place for looking into the lives of family and women of the working class, it should be read with the knowledge that many of the lives of working class people were different and Hughes just represents one person and family.

Bibliography 

  • Hughes, Anita Elizabeth. “My autobiography” 1.357 on your author in The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, ed. by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989) 3 vols.
  • Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas.  53. 1 (1992): 47-70

 

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