Katherine Henderson (B.1908): Reading and Writing

Katherine touches upon her reading experiences to some extent within her memoir. Of all the books mentioned, none of them appear specifically scholarly; they are all in relation to her religion.  Katherine’s memoir does not recall purchasing any books during her early life, which is reflective on her social status within society. Her working class status meant Katherine could not afford many intellectual books, therefore instead  attended the City Temple where she was greatly influenced by preacher Dr.Leslie Weatherhead, an English Christian theologian in the liberal Protestant tradition.[1] Katherine was present at his readings from his literature which took place in church where she believed his sermons and books ‘helped’ and ‘encouraged’ her in ‘enriching’ (50) the darker times of her life.

leslie
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead

 

Once researching Weatherhead’s books it is clear to see the direction Katherine chose to take her studies, his books were The Will of God, The Christian Agnostic, and Psychology, Religion, and Healing, all books containing religious foundations. Katherine then wrote to Weatherhead to inform him of her appreciation of the help she received from his sermons. His writings are influential to Katherine’s memoir as throughout there are religious connotations she shadows as direction to how she leads her life. It can be said that women autobiographers in the early twentieth century often ‘frequently slip into romantic or melodramatic mode especially when speaking of dangerous issues concerning abuse.’[1] This is a common style reflective of Katherine’s work, as she only touches upon the death of her son, yet writes about it in a dramatic manner.

book
The Will of God by Dr Leslie Weatherhead. A book to help those grieving.

Katherine’s choice of reading material is reflective of her life choices, her religious books guide and encourage her in times of need but likewise Katherine also reveals her reading in the form of her sewing patterns. Being able to read sewing patterns for Katherine is viewed as a social matter as opposed to Weatherhead’s books which she reads in private for her personal pleasure. Katherine’s choice of literature is an individualizing activity, to escape the mundane of everyday life. Whereas sewing patterns provide Katherine with an alternate aspect of reading, as this for Katherine is a way to socialize with companions, but also a skill she can use in her work.

The idea of a working women being economically able to have the indulgence to read is no more evident than it is in the finale of Katherine’s memoir.

‘I am a keen reader, a luxury I never had time to indulge in during my working years’ (82)

Although Katherine has always adored reading, she has never had the finance to do so, which is why at the age of retirement she is able to relish in the luxuries she missed out as a working class female.

 


[1] Swindells, Julia Victorian Writing and Working Women. Cambridge: Polity, 1985

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *