“Family parties were always a joy and with aunties, an uncle and cousins near us it was easy to arrange one. All these relations were so much part of everyday life.” (Lumb, pg. 6)
Despite the Walker family’s ‘working-class’ status in society, they still saved quality time for each other every day. This was also apparent when they went on holidays. Nora explains these holidays were inexpensive because her father was a rail clerk, and which is why they went on small holidays before the war started. Nora paints a picture that her father is extremely involved in home life. This could be seen as untypical at the time, but according to Bourke, by the late 19th Century and beginning of the 20th Century, men had more leisure time than women because of the start of employees receiving holiday pay and hours of work beginning to fall.
Therefore, despite Nora’s mother being an unemployed ‘housewife’, her father would be present and made an effort in seeing and spending time with the children. (Bourke). Bourke also describes, when men had these holidays, they would spend their days off toy-making for the children or playing games with them.
Nora pays close attention to both parents in the memoir. Her mother, Agnes Walker, was born 2nd July 1877. Nora comments on this in her memoir as she fondly remembered her mother and her sewing skills: “Mother was a good sewer and embroiderer and another handicraft always on the go was making clipping rugs.” (Lumb, pg. 4) This was not out of the ordinary during the era as stated by Rosemary Collins, “working-class women began to withdraw from industrial life into the home, where they tried to emulate the domestic lifestyle of the wealthy.” (Bourke, pg. 62).
Nora’s memoir is not the only autobiographical entry in the John Burnett Collection that mentions that their families made rag rugs. Mary Laura Triggle spoke of this family activity through her memoir and sent Burnett a rag rug as a thank you to him for letting him tell her story. This shows that this type of activity was common in working-class families in Britain (Triggle).
Nora introduces the audience to her mother and is nothing but complementary about her. She explains to the audience that her mother didn’t have the luckiest upbringing but still enjoyed reading in her spare time, “Mother having an enthusiasm for Dickens. Her education had come to an abrupt end when she was twelve years old as she was needed at home to help her own mother with the increasing family.” (Lumb, pg. 4). This informs the audience that Nora’s family believed in the importance of education and reading and were not put off life-long learning by not being able to continue in formal education.
Consequently, by reading Nora’s memoir and taking into consideration her account of her experiences as a child in the family home, primarily positive, I can conclude that she had a happy and fulfilled childhood by reminiscing about family holidays and gatherings. Her memoir concentrates mainly on her family and home life which allows the audience to understand from outset, this was the most important aspect of her memoir and what she looks back on most fondly.
Collins, Rosemary. in Bourke, Joanna. Working-Class Cultures in Britain, 1980-1960: Gender, Class and Ethnicity London: Routledge, 1994
Burnett, John Professor. ‘Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s.’ (1982)
Goodson, Ivor F., ‘Defining The Curriculum: Histories and Ethnographies.’ (1984)
Cole, Mike. ‘Education, Equality and Human Rights: Issues of gender, ‘race’, sexuality, disability and social class.’ (2012)
1: 719 TRIGGLE, Mary Laura, Series of autobiographical letters, MS, pp.25 (c.4,000 words). BruneI University Library.