Charlotte Dorothy Meadowcroft (b. 1901): Purpose and Audience

Charlotte Meadow croft, b. 1901, documents her life in Derbyshire and Bournemouth, the people she met and the things she did, through her unpublished, handwritten writing.

Throughout her autobiography, Charlotte rarely mentions the names of people or buildings. They are mostly referred to as their relation to her – ‘my sister’, et cetera. This closeness suggests she is writing for relatives, or even herself, to look back on after writing it.

She does not mention her age at the time of writing it, but the reminiscent quality of the writing suggests distance, and it’s not hard to imagine her grandchildren, reluctantly sat round as she opens up with the start of her life:

‘My parents was of the poor class. Those days we didnt have very much money, my father only earned thirty shillings as I remember at the most. We found it difficult to make ends meet from one week to the next. As for holidays it was unknown of to us. Everything we had was a luxury in it self.’

The first few paragraphs continue in this generic manner, suggesting that it may be a throat-clearing exercise for herself, rather than anyone else.

Beyond that, she goes into anecdotes of her childhood. On page 3, she talks about accidentally seeing a calf being killed in a slaughterhouse:

‘I once saw some men killing a bull, it had thick rope round its neck and some men was pulling both ways, as for a tug of war, then someone would hit it on the head… it was sickening.’

This is another personal account of what Charlotte remembers. This style continues till the end, and often focuses on how she felt about the events around her. It’s not the sort of thing that exists in most formal autobiographies, but the level of detail in some areas is too high to be written merely for her own sake. That would suggest Charlotte was writing it for her immediate family – a fairly quick account, for people who know the places and the people, to show her children and grandchildren what she thought about them.

Going on that basis, it’s fair to say that the intended audience has been restrictive on the information given. While there are place-names, not many are specific – she refers to returning to Derby, but not where from. The only specific place is Stancliffe Hall, in Darley Dale, where she worked for her late-teen years. Likewise, none of her family names are explicitly mentioned. The best that we get is Hattie/Hettie, her sister, who came to work at Stancliffe with her. This means it is difficult to draw information from any third party sources.

Although it is restrictive, it means she is quite emotionally intimate, in what she is willing to share with the reader. There are a few references and stories relating to her boyfriends in her teens, and her attempts to stop anyone finding out about them. This is unusual, as most accounts of the right way to go about a relationship comes from an objective view, or a very conservative one.

‘I became friendly with the other master, he was only about 23 years old I liked him very much, we used to slip short notes to each other, when I was writing on the table at lunch time, he would sit at the head of the boys table that I was writing on. Then we would meet outside, to go to the theatre or sometimes a resturant together. He begged me to go to London to meet his [people?] but I did not feel I was doing the right thing.’ (Page 27)

I think Charlotte’s writing differs from most other working-class writing of that era, because she is less interested in documenting the state of the working class, be that in a social, literary or financial state, and more interested in the unusual situations she found herself in.

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