Nora Lumb (b. 1912) Education and Schooling Blog: Part 2 – Writing Lives

Nora Lumb (b. 1912) Education and Schooling Blog: Part 2

“Fashion prescribed long buttoned or laced up boots and fastening with a major difficulty so school provided practice pieces of leather joined by similar lacing to those of boots and small fingers had to learn how to cope.” (Lumb, pg. 5)

Children during WW1 in a school uniform that would have been similar to Nora’s uniform.

Nora Lumb’s autobiography concentrates on those topics important to her during her childhood, one of which is Education and Schooling. This is the second part of a two-part blog on this topic.

Historically we must remember Nora was being educated during . Education at the time was given lesser importance by the government. Education was only compulsory from five to twelve years old, to prepare children for the increasing work load in factories and work houses because all the men were leaving for the war. In hoping to stay in school after the age of twelve, Nora was defying the current schooling system.

Despite Nora’s keen interest in her education, she had faced trials along the way to reach her scholarship in the grammar school, “My brother was already at the Grammar school having obtained a scholarship but even had he failed, my parents would somehow have managed to pay for him to go there. (..) but although loving parents they held the old-fashioned view that it was not so vital for a girl.” (Lumb, pg. 12).

Nora’s name in the 1939 census stating she is a ‘Post Office Telephonist’.
A post office in London in the 20th Century. This would have been the set up that Nora had when she started her job.

Nora expresses so much interest in education; she shapes her new adolescent identity on the confirmation of her place in the grammar school. This desire for a place in grammar school makes Nora work hard to achieve her goals. After researching Nora’s life, information was available to show that during the 1939 census she was employed as a “”. It seems her grammar school schooling had paid off.

Nora worked extremely hard to achieve her scholarship with extra classes she took, “The school I attended had a good scholastic record and extra coaching was given in what was called the scholarship class.” (Lumb, pg. 12)

Nora saves the topic of education for the end of her autobiographical entry. She ends her memoir in the more serious tone as she was about to embark on a new, more serious chapter of her life because she wanted the scholarship so badly, “At last the results were published and happy day, I had won a place at the Grammar school — and that is another story.” (Lumb, pg. 12) This abrupt ending may shock the reader and may crave more explanation, but Nora is taking on a new beginning and has ended the memoir at the perfect time, moving from childhood to adolescence. Education is prominent in the autobiography and it also it allows a positive close, whilst leaving the reader wanting to know more.


Mark James Crowley, PhD, School of History, Wuhan University

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