Writing about Olive’s reading habits is near impossible because not once in her autobiography does she mention authors she enjoyed reading or what inspired her writing. However there are some hints about where her ability to write came from. Olive states that in school she was taught ‘general instruction into the three R’s.’ (3) The Three Rs consists of: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. (source) This was the the main haul of what Olive learned in school, other classes were segregated based on sex so she was taught skills such as sewing instead of academic knowledge. Olive was a good writer, there are very few faults within her autobiography so it is definite that she must have read quite a lot. I assume most of the reading Olive did was through the Bible, Olive never talks of media or pop culture and the only famous, relatable entity in her life is the Bible.
The Holy Bible. (source)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,’ — 2 Timothy 3:16 (source)
From Olive’s perspective, this Bible quotation can be seen as a passage into starting to write as a hobby. Perhaps by writing Olive felt she was ‘training in righteousness’ and writing in light of the Bible. The Bible is very direct in its prose, nothing is elaborated by fancy adjectives or adverbs. The simple writing is useful for mass audiences, so everybody can read and understand it. Looking at Olive’s writing, it is also very simplistic and direct without looking like a child has written it. I can take any random sentence from her autobiography and it will most likely be an objective and observant account of the world she lived in. For example, she writes: ‘My father looked after a flock of sheep some part of the time.’ (11) This is a sentence taken randomly from the autobiography but it exemplifies just how similar Olive’s writing is to the bible.
The appeal of the Bible, and the Bible alone, could be from Olive’s lack of exposure to any other form of media or literature. She most probably did read other forms of literature in her lifetime but she does not mention them. In Gendered Education by Sandra Acker she explains how in the feminist movement of the 70s, the intent for education was to ‘remove barriers that prevent girls reaching their full potential, whether such barriers are located in the school, the individual psyche or discriminator labour practices.’ (45) This quote applies to my last post (which can be seen here) in which Olive worked in unfair conditions. The unfair conditions also apply to Olive’s education and as she was not a young woman during the second wave of feminism she was unaware of the patriarchal practices that kept her in her place. The lack of exposure Olive had to other forms of literature was mostly because she was a woman.
Acker, Sandra. Gendered Education. Buckingham: Open UP, 1994. Print.
Gold, Olive Doris, ‘My Life’, The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography (Brighton: Harvester, 1987). Vol 2. Number 321.