Martha Martin (b.1871): Purpose & Audience

But if I had ever thought I might have written all this, I would have kept a diary

Martha Martin, ‘The Ups and Downs of Life’, p.239

As I noted in her Biographical Entry      Martha’s memoir is a 36,000 word unpublished memoir, though as the above quote appears to indicate, Martha never expected to write at such a length.

Martha states that, when she started writing her memoir, ‘it was more to let you see the ups and downs’ (p.239). Having read and re-read Martha’s memoir, it is not as simple as that..

Mike Savage writes that ‘during the early nineteenth century, as Britain industrialized, working class people came to be aware of their class identity, which led them to campaign for their interests’ (2015, 365). Martha shows an awareness of her class identity from an early age, commenting on coming from a ‘poor’ family and suggesting ‘I have always known the value of money’ (p.57)

Martha is not only aware of her class identity, she is also aware of the struggles that come with it, having been poor for the entirety of her childhood and working multiple jobs in order to afford a living in her adulthood.

Savage elaborates his point about working class people’s awareness of their class identity as he states that the rise of the Labour movement lead to a ‘strong collective class consciousness on the part of the working-class people determined to improve their position in society’ (365). Self-improvement was the central theme of books such as Samuel Smiles’ Self- Help and I think we get a sense of this desire for self-improvement in Martha’s memoir as her father was determined to improve his position in society, another aspect of his character which Martha appears to have inherited.

Martha’s memoir isn’t so much a ‘campaign of interests’ as Savage suggests but an exploration into the ‘ups and downs’ in the life of a working-class woman.

I’ve loved gaining an audience for these blog posts and though the purpose of writing these posts is for the Writing Lives module, it has been a fantastic experience transferring Martha’s words from page to screen for you to enjoy.


Martin, Martha. ‘The Ups and Downs of Life’. Burnett Archives of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library 1:499

Savage, Mike. Social Class in the 21st Century. Penguin Books. Clays Ltd, Suffolk: 2015

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