Violet Austin (1910-1983): Reading and Writing

‘mother had trouble with us at bedtime, the plea was always ‘just one more chapter please’ (33)

 Violet Austin makes various references to her ‘favourite pastime’, which was reading throughout her memoir including her comparison of her badly crippled neighbour, Mrs Hawkins to the witch from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel. Other books she enjoyed as a child included the works of Harrison Ainsworth.

A 1963 copy of Harrison Ainsworth's Old St Pauls
A 1963 copy of Harrison Ainsworth’s Old St Pauls

 Austin’s love of reading may have been inherited off her father who ‘spent any spare money he had… on secondhand books’ (17). He particularly enjoyed the classics such as Dickens of Shakespeare.

 Violet learnt to write at school, beginning with the use of ‘trays of fine sand’(26) and her fingers. She then progressed to the use of slates and slate pencils.

 Austin also explains that during the war people were ‘afraid to read the newspapers’ (7). This suggests that newspapers were available for the majority of people including the working class. It also implies that most people were able to read, which had not been possible in the 19th century, as only a minority of people were able to read and write.

Austin, Violet, ‘Untitled’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:22

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