Minnie Frisby (b. 1877): War and Memory

Minnie begins writing Memories in 1943 towards the end of World War II. Surprisingly Minnie does not discuss the wars, only briefly referring to the affect rationing had people during the harsh winter of 1946/47

‘To begin with everyone has been short of coal, it has of course been rationed as also has food, on account of the terrible war we went through, which ended just over two years ago.’ (Frisby, II:16)

Here, Minnie identified how rationing continued even after the war. Thus highlighting the difficulty Britain faced regarding financial stability and the lack of reform during the initial post-war period.

Snow covered bus during the harsh winter of 1946
Snow covered bus during the harsh winter of 1946

‘The Winter which I think will be long remembered’ was one of the harshest British winters. (Frisby, II:16) Minnie recalls the lack of road accessibility and fuel as well as the closure of grocers and the weather conditions that plagued Britain and Bromsgrove. Due to the rural landscape families lost their livestock as they could not tend them.

It is interesting that Minnie mentions so little about the wars she was involved in. However, geographically she lived away from the centrality of the war and therefore, it may not have affected her personally. Alternatively, it could be too painful to go into detail. And if in fact Memories was written for her children she may only want to discuss happy memories.

Hedgerow Harvest poster
Hedgerow Harvest poster

Although, the aftermath of winter produced a good Harvest. Minnie says how she was grateful to God’s mercy in that the crops were flourishing, ‘how thankful we all should be; God has been very good’ following on from the harsh winter at the beginning of the year. (Frisby, II:16)

I have to commend Minnie’s memory throughout her writing because although she refers to domesticity, childhood and family, she is still able to remember current issues and details despite old age and illness. She opens up her August 11th 1947 piece saying,

‘It is nearly three years since I wrote in my book last time, I am 71 and still bedridden. I didn’t think I should be writing again, but the last twelve months have been so eventful that I feel that I should like to write some of the happenings down.’ (Frisby, II:16)

At that time it is clear that the current issues were just as important as past memories were to Minnie.

Although war does not play a prominent role in Memories it should be recognised that Minnie survived both world wars. Due to the regularity of death throughout the memoir she may not have wanted to dwell on the war. If her writing audience was aimed at her family then she would have wanted to remember happier times.

As a final point, Minnie writes beautifully and reflectively throughout her memoir. These compelling lines sun up Minnie’s humble nature and positive attitude,

‘As I look forward to soon be leaving and meeting again many old friends and loved ones who have gone before – I thank God for all His Goodness, and the blessings I have received; and tho’ I have had my nights of sorrow and pain, I would not have had it otherwise, or I might have grown too attached to this world.’ (Frisby, II:22)

References:

Frisby, Minnie. ‘Memories’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:250

Image References:

Winter Bus (Accessed: 6/12/14)

Hedgerow Harvest (Accessed: 6/12/14)

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