The feisty warm-hearted "mum" has long figured as a symbol of the working class in Britain, yet working-class history has emphasized male organizations such as clubs, unions, or political parties. Investigating a different dimension of social histor The feisty warm-hearted "mum" has long figured as a symbol of the working class in Britain, yet working-class history has emphasized male organizations such as clubs, unions, or political parties. Investigating a different dimension of social history, Love and Toil focuses on motherhood among the London poor in the late Victorian and Edwardian years, and on the cultures, communities, and ties with husbands and children that women created. Mothers' skills in managing the family budget, earning income, and caring for their children were critical in protecting households from the worst hardships of industrial capitalism, yet poverty or the threat of it molded intimate relationships and left its imprint on personalities. This book is also a case study demonstrating the larger argument that the concept of "motherhood" is more socially and historically constructed than biologically determined. Shaky household economics, pressure toward respectability, the close proximity of neighbors, the precariousness of infant and child life, and little chance of better lives for their children shaped the work and emotions of motherhood much more than did the biological experiences of pregnancy, birth, and lactation. This beautifully written book, embellished with Cockney slang and music hall songs, addresses fascinating questions in the fields of women's studies, labor history, social policy, and family history. ...Continua Nascondi
I was recommended this book by a friend and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was so great to read a book on East London history that wasn't a popular history book but more scholarly. It was a joy to read. I was a little dubious that it wouldI was recommended this book by a friend and it was exactly what I was looking for. It was so great to read a book on East London history that wasn't a popular history book but more scholarly. It was a joy to read. I was a little dubious that it would focus entirely on motherhood but it didn't it gave a complete picture of women's lives in many different aspects for the time. Covering issues of work, marriage, health and how all these related to being a mother.
There were many really interesting things that were mentioned in this book. I noted down a few of them many of which seem to be worthy of a book, or at least an article to address the issue in more depth. One was the issue of how mother's often wouldn't eat. She wrote how, "the staff of the St Pancras school for mothers in 1907 noted "the extraordinary tendency of women to starve themselves" which was backed up with accounts from their children about how their mothers wouldn't eat when they were having dinner. There was focus in the book on how it was the woman's role to provide dinner and food for the family, and yet she frequently denied it to herself. I thought that was really interesting, and made me think of other instances when women would control their eating as a form of protest or an attempt to get some control of their lives where none existed elsewhere.
There was an interesting dichotomy between the fact that many people lived together unmarried and had children before marrying while at the same time "remaining ignorant" of sexual matters.
She touched on women drinking, and how they only made up a fourth of those arrested for drunk and disorderly, but then she talked about the "Habitual inebriates act of 1898" which put in "homes" those who were repeatedly drunk (4 times) where they could stay for up to three years to be cured! Of the eight years this was enforced 1902 women were hospitalised and only 375 men, which I thought was very interesting.
The chapter on childbirth was really interesting when it talked about midwifes and nurses and how helpful they were for births and, how at that time, of they were often much better than doctors. In later chapters she goes on to talk about how the high level of infant mortality was directly linked to poverty, and the well meaning attempts to teach the mothers hygenie and give them parenting advice seemed to miss this point entirely. Likewise she talked about good and bad folk medicine.
And lastly while quite morbid she mentioned how the children would "play funerals as often as they would play mothers and fathers" and how toddlers would try and decide if the were going to play "coffins or cradles" with their dolls. Which is a side of high infant mortality that I'd never thought about. This really showed to me what an impact it had on the people within the family, particularly the children. It was another side to the huge mourning and lavish funerals of the late Victorian period that I'd never even thought about.
There were just so many things that were interesting in this book. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it as essential reading to anyone interested in the East End or Victorian times....Continua Nascondi