Winifred Relph (B.1912): Researching Writing Lives

My own screenshot of Writing Lives website

Being part of the Writing Lives collaborative research project and having the opportunity to create an author blog of a person’s life has been an incredibly exciting and educational experience. Each memoir in the Burnett Archive is brimming with interesting stories, experiences and memories from working-class people: a group which have often been overlooked in understandings and representations of the past. Therefore, it was a privilege to be able to uncover a person’s life story and present it on the Writing Lives website for the general public to enjoy. I considered this process truly valuable as, due to our research and writing on this module, we were able to contribute to public history and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same.

Researching my chosen memoir, ‘Through Rough Ways’ by Winifred Relph (b.1912), has given me a wider understanding of what it was like to grow up, live and work in Britain in the early 20th century. Exploring themes such as, education, labour and family, allowed me to learn about varied aspects of my author’s life in great detail. This research has made me aware of useful websites such as, Ancestry, Vision of Britain and The British Library, which have all contributed to helping me present Winifred’s life story to the best of my ability.

Relph family tree from Anscestry
Relph family tree from Ancestry

Taking part in a collaborative research project, meant that as a group we were able to exchange ideas and information on the different themes but, most importantly, give each other encouraging and constructive feedback. Having a positive and interactive relationship with the other members of my group, meant that researching became a team effort and we were able to collate much more information than we would have if we were researching alone. The Writing Lives module has demonstrated to me, how beneficial collective research can be but, also, how the standard of my work can be improved due to advice and helpful comments from other students.

The second year module, Prison Voices, introduced me to blogging and taught me the importance of ensuring that my writing was suitable for a public audience and that my ideas were concisely structured and written economically. I have applied these skills during the process of writing my author blog and, over the semester, my blogging, researching and writing skills have developed further.

Screenshot from my Writing Lives twitter account @lucymurray1994
Screenshot from my Writing Lives twitter account @lucymurray1994

Social media has proven to be an excellent platform for sharing my weekly blog posts. I had always considered sites such as Twitter and Facebook great for keeping in contact with friends but never appreciated how useful they are as a form of research dissemination. Sharing my blog posts on Twitter is a great way to get my research and writing out to the general public and it is really encouraging when readers retweet, favourite or share my work. It has also been great to be able to follow other students on their Writing Lives twitter accounts and help to promote their research and writing too.

The module Writing Lives has been such an important aspect of my university experience. It has taught me the importance of effective researching, writing and has improved my blogging skills dramatically. Having my work published on the Writing Lives website has been really exciting and it is great to know that the website and project is continuously growing and becoming an excellent source of historical research and information.

Picture of Winifred Relph's memoir 'Through Rough Ways'
Picture of Winifred Relph’s memoir ‘Through Rough Ways’

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