‘It occurred to me that as these years were spent at the turn of the century, you my grandchildren, might like to know how my life as seen through a small girls eyes was lived in London.’
This quotation comes from the foreword of Winifred Till’s memoir and highlights her audience for her memoir, her family. This quotation also highlights Winifred’s main purpose for writing her memoir, to educate her family about working class family life in the late-Victorian/early Edwardian period. Winifred talks in great detail about her family life growing up as a child, and the audience very much gets the feeling that she admired and loved her parents very much. Winifred says the following about her mother in her memoir:
‘She was I think the most unselfish person I have ever known. Her life was dedicated to the service of others not as a constant do gooder – it just came naturally to her to look after other people. Her family came first and then any neighbors or friends that were in trouble’ (p8).
Winfred also talks very highly of her father throughout her memoir, describing how he worked so hard throughout his life to provide a happy and stable home for his family. Winifred describes how difficult working life could be for her father: ‘The lot of working men left much to be desired, for there were no unions yet to fight their battles to see that he had a square deal. But men shouldered their responsibilities and did the best for their families’ (p38).
Winifred very much emphasises throughout her memoir that life for her parents in working class late-Victorian London was difficult. Yet she also emphasises her admiration and gratefulness for all they did for her and her adopted sister Alice. Winifred’s focus on her parents allows for her to educate her grandchildren on their ancestry, giving them figures to admire in the form of her parents. Winifred is telling her parents story in order to pass on to her grandchildren the same values her parents had, that working hard and doing the best you can to provide a happy and stable life for your children is an essential part of life.
Throughout the memoir Winifred makes comparisons between social and domestic life during her childhood to modern life, life as she knew it in the 1970s. She does this in order to educated and inform her family of a different time, she emphasises the changes (technological and social), that have occurred throughout her lifetime. It seems that Winifred does this in order to educate her grandchildren about another family value she holds dear, that of letting children grow up without the influence of modern technology being dominant in their lives. Winifred describes her childhood as a happy but simple one, void of many material goods. However despite the lack of advanced technology during her childhood Winifred thrived. This aspect of her memoir passes on the message to her family that although they are living in a time of vast technological improvement, do not rely on it too fully, and do not let it spoil their own, and their children’s childhood sense of innocence.
2-0763-Till, Winifred. ‘The Early Years of a Victorian Grandmother’, TS, pp.39. (c.13,000 words). Brunel University Library.
Gagnier, Regina. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender’. Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987):335-363.