Annie Lord: An Introduction
“Coming from a family of 15 life has Been very tough for me, as I was Born deaf in one ear…”
Annie Lord. A strong and resilient woman, made evident in her memoir, ‘My Life.’ She faced many struggles and complications during her life in Hornsey, the primary one being that she was born deaf in one ear – which she writes rather plainly about, “I was born deaf in one ear, But was never found out those days till late in life…” (Lord, p:1) This hardship effected the majority of her life, particularly whilst growing up. She was never able to excel in academia and despite being a gifted singer and dancer, she was rejected from theatre auditions because of her disability; “… later about the age of 16 years I was taken for gilbert and Sul[l]ivans chorus girls, But directly they found out I was deaf, it was useless, so I had to carry on the Best I could throu[gh] life…” (Lord, p:1) Her lack of enthusiasm towards life is reflected in her writing, as she shows little regard for punctuation, spelling and syntax. Although, this could also be linked to her short-lived education. Annie regularly faced rejection and disappointment throughout her life, her resigned, bleak tone and language reflects this. However, when Annie remembers her childhood, her tone shifts and language brightens, making evident that these were the fondest days of her life.
Annie highlights that she comes from a large family of fifteen. However, she never refers to any family member by their given name. Instead, she uses the pronoun ‘we’ referring to what can only be assumed as her siblings; “But we were all very happy those days we had lots of friends all used to help another every way we could…” (Lord, p:1) From her lack of direct mentioning, there is room to assume that Annie lacked an emotional, even loving bond with her relatives. However, it is upon further reading that her fundamental priority is family, as it is the one subject matter that she always refers back to throughout her writing.
Her struggles did not end when her education did, at age fourteen. Instead, they only seemed to worsen. She presents her rush into married life as possibly her biggest downfall; “… my life was a misery. Beaten and Knocked about for nothing at all, by this time I all Ready had one child and thought that he would change…” (Lord, p: 3) Throughout this section of Annie’s memoir, I empathised with her greatly, as she rushed into an abusive and unhappy marriage (unknowingly at the time) out of fear that she will never find anything or anyone better as a result of her deafness; “… I think if I had not Been deaf I would never have run into it But there it was…” (Lord, p:5) Thus, her minor disability caused major restrictions throughout her life, like marrying a man that was physically and mentally crippled by war.
Annie appears to be very proud of her working-class background when she describes in great detail numerous jobs she has undertaken over the years, “I also worked for the Hornsey gas company in that war on the sulphure plants out in the open turning them over in all Weathers singing all the time and Happy.” (Lord, p:2) As well as enlightening readers into her working-class background, her class is reflected throughout her writing. For example, Marianne Farningham stated, “I have had frequent misgivings while writing this autobiography, for I know of no particular reason why it should have been written; and it has appeared very egotistic to do it.” Furthermore, as a result of workers, like Annie, being given a very limited opportunity to voice their opinions and tell their stories, when they are finally given the chance to do so, they do it almost apologetically. Thus when Annie says things such as; “you just had to take it those days there was nothing I could do…” (Lord, p:4) this undermines what she went through and puts blame upon the times she was living in, rather than the people mistreating her.
To conclude, Annie Lord lived a hard and challenging life. I feel honoured to have the opportunity to research and analyse her life in such depth. Additionally, I believe that researching memoirs, particularly those of the working-class, is exceedingly important as not only does it shed light upon the hardships so many faced, but ultimately in doing so, it gives people, like Annie, a voice and platform to tell her story.
‘Annie Lord’ in John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945, 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989): 2:486
Lord, Annie. ‘My Life,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, 2:486
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Lois Ann Lorentzen and Jennifer Turpin (1998). The Women and War Reader. New York: New York University Press. 3-157.
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