Ellen Gill (1888-1988): Reading and Writing

Arthur_GillLeaving school at the tender age of 13, the joy of her education days had suddenly come to halt. We learn that she enjoyed school and was a keen student however it does not seem that Ellen had an interest in reading as she does not comment much on this theme. Moreover, we learn that she used to recite hymns in Sunday school. Attending Sunday school was a shared activity and although she did not remember liking any of the sermons she does remember saying recitations. I suppose this does distinguish her reading experiences as being influential in a positive way because Sunday school was a place where children learned about Christianity and gained knowledge from the Bible. This religious experience of literature, one could say it may have influenced her writing, as Sunday school and church becomes a frequent discussion throughout her memoir.

Ellen was also a member of the choir at Woodhouse Temperance Hall thus she must have been able to read to be able to learn the songs that they had to sing. She mentions that they would learn new melodies for special occasions such as Easter and parade down the street with the Band-of-Hope and sing melodies along with all the members of the choir.

Ellen’s husband, Arthur began his memoir shortly after Ellen and we learn from both that he had a strong interest in writing and may have influenced Ellen to write her memoir. The difference between the two memoirs is visible. It is visible in the structure, the tone, syntax and vocabulary and more so in Arthur’s memoir we can gain the impression that he was of a more literate background compared to Ellen.

When talking about his ‘Lady love’ Arthur notes that Ellen was taken into hospital around February 1910 for an operation, there he wrote to her 2 little booklets to keep her updated with everything that was going on at home and these had been kept by Ellen which shows that she values the sentiment of hand-written letters from her husband and also raising the idea that she liked to read.

Ellen had type-written her memoir whereas Arthur’s memoir was beautifully hand-written. However, it is interesting to note that Ellen includes at the end of her memoir ‘Editorial notes’ something that one would not regularly see in working-class writing this may highlight the fact Ellen has quite possibly read her fair share of books where one would become familiar with this type of terminology.

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