From what I have gathered whilst reading Rosa Bell’s memoir, is that she had written it during old age (indicated by the memoir’s publication date) and wanted to preserve her own history for her family and descendants to read after she had passed on. Perhaps she wanted to gain a sense of closure or reflect on her happiest memories to have some peace of mind.
Rosa’s stories focus primarily on her childhood and her early years of adulthood, such as marriage to her husband, Ken, the several jobs she held as well as surviving on the Dole. There are no specific dates recorded for each memory of an event of a particular person. This conveys the impression that she ended up writing about each figure of her past as they sprang back to her mind.
“So I hope you will enjoy reading this even though it is a bit muddled.” (pg. 41)
She mentions in her quite casual and conversational tone of voice that she wants her readers to enjoy what she has to say regardless. There is no real sense of urgency that she wants to seem utterly credible or present herself as worthy of the attention of others. This memoir was written during a period of her life where her private space would have been completely free and uninhibited, just Rosa alone with her fondest memories.
Although the feelings of joy and gratitude run consistently throughout her memoir, not all of Rosa’s recollections are jovial. She occasionally recalls tragic accidents of people who she or someone in her family cared deeply for. For instance, one particular incident that stood out in her mind at that time was a disaster at the mine where her father worked:
“I remember that sad day so vividly. My father came home quite late and we hardly knew him – he’d grown old in just such a short time. Seven good men were killed and one was his dearest friend and the shock had been too much for my father.” (pg. 50)
This is a very heartfelt recollection and the emotions that she presents to us here tells us exactly why she remembers this event so distinctively. Her father being a pivotal figure in her life, this would have been a deeply saddening moment for her to experience not being able to recognise him. But, rather than dwell on this sadness, she immediately moves on to mention how one of the survivors was proven to be a hero and lived a fulfilling and happy life.
David Vincent, in his essay ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class’, stated that “…the autobiographers lived on in a world in which their closest emotional relationships were always threatened by the unpredictable and often unannounced visitation of death. Yet although these narratives are peppered with references to death they are far from dominated by the subject.” (pg. 242)
In times of bereavement and grief, Rosa found support in her faith. Often when she discussed the passing of a family member or even an event that robbed the lives of people she may have known, her beliefs allowed her to seek comfort in knowing that they have moved on to a better place:
“She gave so much joy and did so many kind & generous things in her lifetime I am sure that Heaven would be her Resting Place.” (pg. 72)
- Bell, Rosa. R.h.n. Remembers. Brunel University Library, July 1987.
- Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class.’ Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247