Kathleen Betterton (B.1913) : Researching Writing Lives

The Writing Lives module has given me the opportunity to investigate a period of history that I have always been fascinated with. I have always been intrigued in life before the ‘modern day’, and how society has transgressed and developed too our current way of life. Each blog emphasised and addressed an array of topics that captured my attention. I delved into research via primary and secondary sources. As well as the research carried out on my author, I furthered interest into the period through other texts. There is an ample amount of novels, research, factual manual scripts and articles, gripping texts that motivated my study. A thought-provoking journal article ‘she cried a very little’: death, grief and mourning in working-class culture, c.1880-1914. (2002) written by Julie-Marie Strange discusses the classes from a very different angle, focusing upon grief and the body as a corpse. Her analysis of death using novels and memoirs is a real eye opener that sparked a whole new perception on the study of social class. I enjoyed several pieces of reading, in particular the true story of Thomas Barnardo and David Vincent’s article ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class’ (1980).


I have discovered a lot about how life was for the people during the early twentieth century, in particular that of the working-class. For me I got a real appreciation out of Kathleen Betterton’s memoir. Her autobiography is full off personal accounts, experiences of many people during this time; the struggles, the hardship but also the solidarity and community spirit. The research on working-class culture highlights how materialistic attributes are not a fundamental necessity to a happy life. Those with little made the best of what they had resulting in some heart-warming, endearing memories.  As a result of the module I found myself reflecting on my personal perspective of life, with thanks to the previous generations, their determination and fight has enabled for a better future, more opportunities and a more equal life for people of today.


There was not a lot of information on Kathleen Betterton. I had to analyse what she was saying just as much as what she was not saying to try and expose links. Investigating her at times was stressful and very time consuming but this is often the case of a researcher. I developed my organisation skills. I found that creating a structured strategy plan helped; using spider grams and sectioning information made research a lot quicker.  Using a plan also kept me on track; it was far easier to allocate the facts that I needed when they were divided into sections.  I learnt that as a researcher keeping notes of everything was vital. Information that was not relevant at that time may be useful in the future or can offer links to other sources. It was crucial that I set myself designated times to carry out the research on Kathleen as well as slots for promotion work of the Writing Lives website and the writing of the blogs.


I feel that I am far more open minded. Reading a personal narrative aroused emotions and made me take a step back and think  of others before coming to an opinion. It was amazing looking through old photos, census records, newspaper articles and any other source I could access. I had to keep persistence in my research; I contacted people from the British library, from local papers, ancestor websites and many others. I sent emails to the London Metropolitan Archives in which they did respond and gave me some very useful links, although unfortunately I was unable to find any pictures of Kathleen. I feel that I have contributed to public history through my blogs. I enjoyed writing and learning about Kathleen Betterton, I feel this comes through my blogs. She was a very inspiring woman. I wrote about her with great care, putting as many quotes into the context as I could so that the reader could have a sense of her style of writing; who she was and what she was about.


I have not had that much experience with blogging before although during second year of my degree I blogged for two modules. I do have personal social media accounts but I have never been a constant user. I found that Twitter was a quick and simple way to promote the website; it also was valuable in terms of sharing links with others’. I used Facebook as a way of promoting too. The project has also given me insight into understanding the skills needed for jobs within the media industry as well as skills for other types of employment. I feel that I have learnt a significant amount about dealing with schedules, tasks, and the maintaining of a work load. Furthermore was that of the copy editing; working as a part of a team, forwarding notes and reading over others work was all new to me but I feel I contributed well.


For me I think the biggest thing I will take away from being a part of the Writing Lives project is the appreciation of my life, of how society has evolved from the early twentieth century. Relating back to Kathleen’s memoir, her epilogue; she reminds the reader that education, medical care and living standards have all improved dramatically- the message she is sending to her reader is most certainly retrieved.



Betterton. K. (1975)’ White Pinnies, Black Aprons….. ‘Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library: Special Collection. 2:71


David Vincent, “Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class”, Social History, Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1980), pp. 223-247.


Julie –Marie Strange, “She cried a very little’: death, grief and mourning in working-class culture. C.1880-1914”, Social History, Vol.27, No. 2 (May, 2002), pp.143-161.


‘The Village Home Barkingside’. Goldonian.org.uk/Barkingside.N.d. Web. Accessed 24 October 2013.


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