Martha Martin (b.1871): Researching Writing Lives

Despite my blogging experience (I have been running my own blog for a little under a year now, and I have produced a blog as part of my studies in other modules whilst at university), this collaborative writing project was much more difficult than I expected but, at the same time, it was incredibly rewarding.

I assumed the module would be simple, as (to me) it was just looking at my author’s memoir and writing 8 themed posts about it. Of course, from the first week of the Writing Lives module, I realised that writing my blog posts was not as simple as I anticipated. Though it was 36,000 words, Martha’s memoir was not as rich and detailed as others I had encountered, and so it proved difficult at times to write about specific topics. Of course, I was able to get around this problem using the information Martha provided in her memoir and adapting it to suit specific topics and ideas. This enabled me to gain confidence in myself and my writing, as well as ensure that my writing was as focused as possible- something I have struggled with at times during my studies.

Whilst at university, I have been fascinated by women writers and how they write about female experience, so I knew from the beginning that I wanted to write about a woman’s memoir. Martha’s memoir struck a chord with me as, like Martha, I am close to my family. It was interesting to see how much she identified with her father, and I loved reading about how she remained close to her aunt and cousins throughout her life.

Initially, I found Martha’s memoir extremely problematic to navigate, as she does not include precise dates or titles (aside from ‘My Hotel Life’) and so it was difficult to figure out when Martha may have been writing. There was also the problem of Martha’s handwriting which proved difficult to decipher due to the image being faded or the writing itself looking rushed. As I read the memoir more, however, I became more familiar with the way Martha writes and the process of deciphering her writing became easier. The lack of preciseness of Martha’s memoir has unfortunately meant I have not yet been able to trace Martha or her family, though I aim to do some further research once I have time after I have completed my degree.

I have used Twitter as part of similar projects before, but it is only during this project that I actually appreciated it. It is easy to overlook Twitter sometimes, but this module has taught me that it can be used for educational purposes: promoting my posts and engaging with others as well as communicating with people outside of LJMU and the Writing Lives module. It has been incredibly encouraging to have the support of my peers and it has encouraged me even more to search for work in a similar field after I graduate. I have also used a private Facebook group to share my posts among my peers and so we can give each other feedback so our best work is made available to such a wide audience.

I have contributed to public history by making Martha’s memoir, one of the earliest collected of the writers we studied this year, accessible. Not only does her memoir, like the others discussed on the Writing Lives website, provide an insight into what it was like to be a working-class person in Britain, it also expresses what it was like to be a working-class woman in Britain- a position which is often overlooked.

This has been an interesting though challenging project to be a part of. Though it has been a struggle at times to balance the other demands which have come with my final year of studying with producing blogs, I think this has given me crucial skills I need for working life and it has only made my desire to be a writer and pursue a career in journalism stronger.

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