Maud Clarke (1887-1982): Researching Writing Lives

I chose to be a part of the Writing Lives project because it offered me an opportunity to research and write in a way which I hadn’t done before. The task of working exclusively on a single autobiographer and getting to know their story inside and out presented me with unfamiliar challenges that I had to focus on to overcome; such as finding gaps in Maud’s narrative and researching people and places she mentions. It also provided new possibilities for me regarding social media and blogging. By setting up my first twitter account due to this project, I have become more adept with the platform which will be a great help to me in the future. I had also never written blog posts before; this format has really opened my eyes to the wonderful nature of writing and sharing seemingly lost information.

Me at Tipton cemetery in Staffordshire.

I was first attracted to Maud Clarke’s memoir by her inclusion of fabric, photographs and newspaper clippings, what held my interest was her sense of humour and positive outlook on her life when writing it at 91 years-old. Her upbeat reflection made it a constant joy to read over again week-after-week. I hope that anyone who takes the time to read Maud’s memoir and/or my thematic posts on her story finds the same pleasure in her words.

Having had no other research background – to this extent – in my time at University, I decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into the process. I spent the first 2 weeks of the Writing Lives project tracing Maud’s family tree (image below). I managed to trace her family back as far as 1791, however I was not lucky enough to find any direct descendants. I then spent 3 weeks transcribing and editing Maud’s memoir, as I wanted everyone to be able to read her words; taking the time over her handwriting and storytelling style gave me a greater understanding of her stories than I might have had with only one or two readings.

Finally, I went on a road-trip this month to Maud’s much-loved hometown of Tipton to visit her old addresses and search for her gravestone in Dudley and Tipton cemeteries. (I was unfortunately unable to find her buried there, but I do not know for a fact that she was indeed buried.)

Maud Clarke’s family tree which I researched at the beginning of the project.

The platform I have discovered on Twitter has been incredibly helpful for sharing my posts and spreading the hard work of others. I was able to reach and be reached by pages that were hugely relevant to my research but that I would have otherwise been unaware of. (Click here to see my Twitter activity over the Writing Lives course.)

In collaboration with the other students and bloggers on this project, I have been able to achieve a broader understanding of working-class lives and writing. Reading the work of others has helped me to shape my own blog posts; and having a support network of other researchers who have found historical gems along the way just as I have has been really rewarding. I have been frequently inspired by the various paths that our working-class authors have taken.

I feel privileged to have been responsible for Maud’s memoir and I hope that those who have and will read it enjoy her life-story as much as I did.

Sources:

Clarke, Maud. ‘Untitled’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 156, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/9479

‘Maud Clarke’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 156

www.findmypast.co.uk

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