Charlotte Meadowcroft’s handwritten autobiography documents her school years spent in Derby, until 1914 when she left at twelve years old, due to the First World War, to work in her mother’s general shop.
Charlotte talks about school by saying what she did on the way there, or what she was doing instead of going:
‘I remember my sister & I was very young we was in the infants school, sometimes we would stop to play in the fields & pick flowers & forget to go to school, then we would go home again, eventually, we was playing truant.’ (Page 1)
On page 2, she talks about only having one pair of clogs for school, and shoes for home/church, saying ‘very often we had to stay away from school while they [shoes] was repaired.’ This attitude continues, making it clear that Charlotte never saw her education as an important thing.
There is no evidence of school being a negative experience to her, which suggests that her lack of attendance, and no one caring, may be an issue of sex in the 1900s. If she was expected to be a housewife, or a low skilled worker, schooling wouldn’t seem like a necessary thing.
On page 8, she talks about leaving school:
‘In 1914 the war started, I was about 12 yrs old. I did not go to school again, I was not missed nobody seemed to bother whether I went, or not. I was pleased, because I didn’t like going to school. I was backward, because I was always going to different school. The reason was my mother was always changing houses.’
This is interesting as she recognises that her lack of schooling has put her behind her peers. She says that moving around was the reason, but it doesn’t come across as an accusation to her mother, more a neutral statement, suggesting that school absence was a normal thing.
She doesn’t mention her education beyond this, so we can assume that she never goes back. The next time we hear about school is page 15, when she goes to work in Stancliffe hall, a boys’ school in Darley Dale, as a maid. Most of her autobiography events happen here, but, throughout that period, she doesn’t comment on the contrast between the education of the boys’ against her own.