Jessie Ravenna Sharman (b. 1892): Purpose & Audience

Sharman’s autobiography is a clear and concise memoir, entailing her long and joyous teaching career, which continued through two world wars. Sharman explains that she was initially persuaded by her daughter-in-law to write Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman; she seemed to deem it important to document her training and career. Despite her autobiography being just 2,000 words long, I find it carries more depth than just details of her schooling career. Not only does she inform us, in great detail, of her education and years of teaching, she also includes anecdotes of her childhood such as the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and when she first decided she was to become a teacher.

The primary reason why I chose to study Sharman’s work was because I had read that she explained about teaching and I myself am aiming to become a teacher. Although Sharman probably never imagined her autobiography would be published, the way in which she describes her career is highly positive and would persuade readers who were already interested in teaching to embark onto this path. Therefore, without this being her intention, the audience she wrote her memoir for would include people such as myself, who also wish to become teachers. Sharman writes ‘I was very happy at St. Peter’s School until 1914 when the First World War broke out.’ (Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 8)

Dissimilar to many other working class autobiographies at this time, there is an absence of an apology for ordinariness in Sharman’s memoir. This could be due to the fact that although she was of working class status, she does not necessarily conform to the given expectations of society; her parents could afford her tuition for the private schools she attended  and she was of a high intellectual status. Also, as she embarked on her teaching career, she made a good wage to support herself and her three sons unlike farmers and factory workers in her community who were expected to raise their families on just one pound a week. She hints at this in her autobiography when she mentions other women her age working at the Colman’s factory.

Colman's logo, which originated in Norwich, 1814
Colman’s logo, which originated in Norwich, 1814

‘In those days working-class girls had not much choice of work – it was either to go into a factory or service.’(Recollections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman, page 5) It could be said that Sharman says this as if she is not one the ‘working-class girls’ she mentions.

It seems Sharman’s purpose is to inform readers, mostly consisting of family members, of her teaching career, as well as to tell us about how her life was different to other people of a working-class status. Although she states that she was persuaded into writing her memoir by the daughter-in-law, this does not necessarily mean that she wrote it primarily for her. Therefore, her main audiences are those interested in the environments of teaching, education and schooling and readers interested in working-class autobiographies in the early twentieth century. Working-class readers at the time she published her memoir could have seen Sharman’s work as inspirational, as she seemed to have lived an eventful, joyful life with a successful teaching career and happy family unit.



618 SHARMAN, Jessie Ravenna, ‘RecolIections of Jessie Ravenna Sharman’, TS, pp.8 (c.2,000 words). BruneI University Library.



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