Hi everyone

And here’s to women around the world, happy International Women’s Day (which was actually 8 March). I see the theme this year is Choose to Challenge. Yes, that’s a good one, as I agree that we should challenge everything, or at the very least keep a critical and aware eye on events, systems, people, indeed nations, and our selves.

There is so much to do still in the quest for true equality and I’m thinking of all women around the world who’s lives are dictated by men, and whose bodies are not under their control. How things have changed, though, because I remember having to leave the Civil Service (I’d left nursing and became a Clerical Officer at the Department of Health and Social Security as it was called then) when I became pregnant in 1976. It was possible to continue working in the Civil Service after having children, but there was no childcare, and, I knew no-one who worked with young children, we were all at home, it was another era, another time. I did eventually get back to working outside the home but I had around 11 years at home, which I hasten to add, was not all about childcare as I went to Sussex university and took a degree, graduating with a 2.1 at the age of 40. And from then on I had my second career in research and development in social care.

And talking about another time, I see Gail of Is This Mutton wrote a lovely post about the past apparently inspired by my honeymoon photo, so I am inspired by her to look back and celebrate my mother and some of her life.

The thing is for years, decades, I was forever looking forward, outwards, onwards to the next idea, the next project, the next whatever, anything to move away from my home and especially my mother. I did not want to be anything like my mother. She was nervous, depressed and, from what I observed did nothing but the housework – that was not for me.

Here is a photo of how she looked as I grew up; small (5’2″) neat with heavy glasses and, my word, I’ve just noticed her shoes!  As she grew older she had terrible feet with huge bunions, telling me the bunions came along because she always wore fashionably tight shoes with high heels. The photo was taken on a rare occasion when the two of us were staying at her best friend in Wales, without my father.

The significance of me saying we were without my father is that he was very controlling for reasons I began to understand when I read his memoir. He did not realise that while he was writing about his Indian army days, he also revealed much of the man he was. For the first time I saw the young man who became my father and I understood more as to why he was the way he was.

Here are my parents on their wedding day in August 1945.

Parents 1945. Mother aged 30

My father had returned to England to marry my mother to find that she had not obtained the licence to get married. His story is that the priest refused to give it to my mother because he was not going to give a licence to people who hardly knew each other, and furthermore had said to my mother that her fiancé had probably had too many (I can’t say the word) women in India. My father was furious and went rushing round to this minister, and was told no, he wouldn’t give him the licence and why, because my mother had probably been consorting with American airman. Later on, I found out this was true! My father, knowing nothing of that, said he felt like punching the man, but restrained himself and got a special licence from somewhere in London and they were duly married.

My parents did know of each other before they courted as both lived in the town of Bedford. My father writes in his memoir of my mother as his girlfriend, and tells us that they met three times during his pre-war army days whilst on leave. With most of his leave taken up with travelling by sea from India to England they met for just over a week each time, thereafter their courting was through letters written throughout the war.  So, on their marriage that was correct, they hardly knew each other.

And here is a photo that I found after both had died which, I think, shows the seeds of the family dynamic.

On the left is my father’s mother (I love her jacket) and I’m holding my mother’s hand looking as grumpy as my father. But I now know how hard he was working to pass his chartered accountancy exams, which he failed the first time round, and I realise how damaged he was by his experience of war, which is too long a tale to tell here, but look at his face, it’s all there. Meanwhile my mother is looking lovely – those shoes, that hat, the coat!

My mother was lovely, but fragile for various reasons, some of which I will reveal and some would take too long. She was born into quite a wealthy family. Here she is in a simply divine white cotton lawn dress with her doll, Betsy. Look at the hair (it was red) her doll and her little watch.

Edith Lillian Campbell 1920

But her mother was, I have to say, unstable and drank, maybe for a good reason, as I found long after my mother had died that her father, my grandfather, had married the maid. Yes, my grandfather Campbell on the death of his father had retired as an engineer and returned from India to Scotland, and at the age of 42 married my grandmother, his domestic servant, aged all of 20 years.

It could have been a fairy tale story of love conquering all, but there’s quite a lot of darkness and near child abuse in their children’s upbringing, and I have often wondered why this very Scottish couple left Scotland to live in Bedford.  Perhaps people knew my grandmother had been the maid and maybe it mattered (we’re a very class ridden society, us Brits, to this day) and no-one would have known my grandmother’s origins in Bedford. It was several years after my mother’s death that I found out that my grandmother came from Glasgow, had eight siblings and her father was a fish curer (I absolutely love smoked fish, so that’s where it comes from!) Not once did I hear anything about her family, but neither did I ask.

My mother had two older brothers, but she was a daddy’s girl and he adored her. However, despite her teachers begging her father he would not let her go to art college, she was to stay at home where she belonged and not mix with bohemian types – what an awful shame for her. But that was a pattern that became an established part of her life, as she married someone very like her father. She never worked and had no life outside our family house whatsoever.  During our childhood, no other adults (apart from my father’s siblings) were ever invited to our house and I don’t ever remember her making any friends. There was only Marjorie Sparrow and Margot Battle from her past life.

My mother, Edith Lillian and her father, David Ernest Campbell. Walking in Bedford, late 20s.

And yet she did manage to escape to have wild adventures with her best friend Marjorie Sparrow. They were very close and years later I found a photo album in her brother’s house that verified some of the tales that ‘aunt’ Marjorie told me of their escapades. One story was about their holiday together where they met two dashing young men.  Apparently she was to marry the young man on the left, but he was killed in the war.  Marjorie told me that he was the love of my mother’s life.

Mother, Edith Lillian Campbell with Marjorie Sparrow and two young men. My mother’s young man, the one on the left, died early in the war; they were to marry. On holiday in Dorset, photograph says Boscombe, ?1939

Instead, in 1945 at the age of 30 she married my father and settled down to a life of domesticity.  Here I am outside their first house in Edgware.

It is difficult for me to see my mother as a beautiful young woman as she became, to be absolutely honest, mousier and more and more timid as the years passed ground down by domesticity and, again to be absolutely honest, my father, and I never really saw her beauty behind those heavy glasses and did not see her as anything other than my hard-working housewife mother.  Look at those eyebrows and those eyes!

Edith Lillian Campbell, 1935, aged 20

She always wore a Helena Rubenstein red lipstick and powdered her face with a swansdown powder puff, nothing else, no foundation or eye-makeup. Here she is at my wedding in a dress made from Crimpelene, which was her favourite material as it cut out the need to iron.  Remember those 50s dresses? She spent hours ironing not only all my father’s shirts but also the many full-skirted dresses worn by the three of us (me and my sister, Elizabeth and herself).  I think this is why I never iron anything if I can possibly help it, it reminds me too much of the domestic drudgery that surrounded the life of my mother.

But our family life was not unhappy, do not think of my father as the villain and my mother as a victim, they both had their issues and demons, which they wrestled with, which I understand now I am no longer a child. But for us, when we were young, family life was what we were used to, and both my sister and I accepted that our mother was depressive and my father difficult, oh yes, he was difficult, but that was all we knew and we were fine, apart that is, I knew I had to get away and have a different life, which I did.

The baby I am holding is my Susie, now aged 44!

And now, after all those years of wanting not to be like my mother, I acknowledge there is a lot of my mother in me, in my nervy anxiety that has become more noticeable this past year, and who is that person looking at me in the mirror? Oh cripes, I see it’s my mother! What’s more over the years I learnt much about her from her old friend Marjorie and my father’s memoir and just reflecting on how life must have been for her. Now I salute my mother for all the work she did to keep the family going: the cooking, the ironing, the washing, the dusting, and her wonderful Christmases, she really did a good Christmas. Oh yes, and her jam and cake making, both of which were superb. It was her job to do all of this and she did it very well. I am a right slut in comparison and do not like housework (although I like arranging the furniture!) nor can I make jam for toffee (actually that’s how my one attempt at blackcurrant jam came out, as blackcurrant toffee, you needed a hammer to get into it). No, I don’t bake, I don’t make jam and I don’t iron.  But my mother was wonderful at all these skills. I also salute all those women who lost loved ones in the war, and then made the absolute best of their subsequent marriages, after all my father and mother stayed together for nearly 50 years.

Three cheers for all those women like my mother.

With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper

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52 thoughts on “Celebrating women everywhere, especially my mother!

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:30 am
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    What a wonderful piece of writing. I too, during this lockdown in particular, have looked in the mirror and thought ‘that’s my mother staring back at me’.

    • 11th March 2021 at 2:58 pm
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      Thank you Pat, and yes, the mirror and the person looking back…..!

      Thanks again – take care 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:34 am
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    A super blog for International Womens’ Day.
    An illuminating family story.
    I came from an emancipated family , my two grandfathers and my father all believed in women receiving a good education , and making their own choices.When in the 1960s I needed a baby minder and then a nursery I found them .
    I now realise how very fortunate I was .
    Thank you for your story.
    Best wishes ,
    Ro

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:00 pm
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      Thank you Ro, I think your grandfathers must have been ahead of their time – good for them!

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:34 am
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    What a lovely and honest tale. It is so easy to dismiss other people, even family. Everyone has background stories and dreams. I really enjoy your blog. I am in my fifties living in South Africa since the age of one. My English heritage is a bit of a mystery to me.
    Stephanie

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:01 pm
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      Hi Stephanie – and when you’ve got time, maybe when you’ve retired, I expect you’ll be able to investigate your English heritage. Family history is a fascinating thing to do.

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:34 am
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    I loved reading this Penny. I have been gently prodding my mother to try and remember the characters in the family she grew up amongst before she is too old and ‘you know’ to be able to recall. Family Trees are all well and good but have none of the stories that bring the names to life.
    I had, and still have, a cool relationship with my mother which stems from the way SHE was brought up as part of a large Welsh mining family. I too had to break away to find my own life. It’s only as adults that we understand the things our parents had to cope with and can put things into perspective. I keep a list of questions to ask my mother about events in the past and when things return to normal, I plan on having a good old heart to heart, cards on the table, chat with her. There will be tears and harsh words I’m sure but I believe she still sees me as a child (at age 62!) When once, to bring up these subjects would have been ‘none of your business’, it’s now the key to unlocking family dynamics and important to be able to understand the people WE become.

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:08 pm
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      Thank you Lesley. Although I have done a lot of family history I didn’t do enough of the face-to-face questioning. They were quite guarded – with good reason, I think. But it is so important to get answers.

      Here’s a tip when you have that conversation with your mother do record it – years later it will be such a boon to hear your parent’s voice. I recorded my father speaking about his life, but not my mother.

      And oh yes, didn’t they just see us as their children. I try very hard to not do that with mine. Take care:)

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:39 am
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    Many for this very interesting post and photographs. Like you, I couldn’t wait to leave home. There are several similarities between your mother and mine: they shared the same name – Edith though my mother was called Nell or Nellie. Her life revolved around our home and she also had superb housewifery skills. She also kept secrets. I’ve only recently discovered I have a half-sister, born in 1938. I’ve understood my mother more in the last five years than all the years she was alive. I feel sad about that.
    All the very best, Mary
    BTW – I have my email listed but never get notices of your posts. Do I need to confirm my request?

    • 10th March 2021 at 3:27 pm
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      Have you met the half-sister and did it work out as a new happy relationship for you?

      • 11th March 2021 at 9:55 am
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        Hi Jan,
        Alas no. I found out bout her because a friend was tracing my mother’s family history. My friend tried tracing the baby but as she was adopted her name was almost certainly changed. I have registered on the Government’s contact site and on several local history sites in the area she was born, but nothing so far. She would be 83 now. It was a total surprise to my whole family. No wonder my mother suffered so much depression – the pressure of keeping that secret for 50+ years. Thank heavens things have changed.
        Best wishes, Mary

        • 11th March 2021 at 3:20 pm
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          Hi again, Mary.

          Yes, my mother suffered from chronic depression – I now think I know why.

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:17 pm
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      Hi Mary, oh this is amazing, we have similar stories as actually I think my mother had a child before her marriage and obviously not with my father as he was in India. But I can’t prove it – I have tried. There’s evidence that’s circumstantial, but apart from that and despite searching I can’t quite pin this down.

      Like you, I understand my parents far more now than when they were alive.

      And re: the email you don’t get, the thing is I have looked back over 2 years on my list and can’t see your email. These blogs are really tricky and not without their IT blips, including not accepting emails. Btw, bloggers can’t touch, add, or do anything with their lists apart from looking at them. This is because unscrupulous bloggers who want to earn money from their blogs and need thousands of followers to get paid ads and so on, would add followers galore. Could I ask you to put in your email again and then of course, respond to the email to confirm you want to follow. And then if I can’t see it – I have a problem!!!!

      All the very best to you too, Mary, and take care

    • 12th March 2021 at 10:38 am
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      Penny…I loved reading about your mother. The photos were wonderful, especially the one of her as a child. And…your readers’ comments are wonderful, too, each sharing insights about their mothers and their relationships. I am 72 and still have my mother who will turn 94 this year. She is still sharp and lives with my bachelor brother, still cooking and keeping house. She has had a challenging life as an only child of Japanese immigrants, married and divorced, raising four children, singlehandedly. Her mother was a “picture bride”. A photo was sent to my mother’s father in America to tell him that his bride would be arriving. She was selected by his parents. They were 13 years apart in age. He was 50 when my mother was born in 1927. They lived with my parents and us children, in a 2-bedroom home, until they passed. They were the generation sent to the WWII Japanese-American internment camps. Like several of your readers have commented, I have had a complicated relationship with my mother as her eldest child. We are thankful for her hard work through the lean years, working two jobs sometimes, to make ends meet. She worked even when my father was around. She was and is smart, good with math, leading to her love of sudoku and word scrambles, a morning ritual over coffee. Clever with crafts, she is never bored. She worked during the era of early IBM computers and data-entry cards…very similar to the women in the movie, Hidden Figures. She learned early programming as well. Jobs were plentiful then. She did not understand why her grandson’s PhD did not just sweep him into a job!
      One year ago, pre-pandemic, we took an outing to the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles with 4 generations that included 4 great-grandchildren. The eldest, at 9, was writing a report on her life. He had sent her questions in advance to discuss over a delicious lunch. I asked her how many questions he had emailed to her. Twenty. And she answered them all, some complete with photos.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this poignant piece. You’ve given me the opportunity to appreciate, anew, my mother’s challenging life.
      Much appreciation and wishes of good health sent to you…

      • 12th March 2021 at 12:03 pm
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        What a fascinating life your mother has led and you still have her with you – how wonderful.

        Also I’m glad your grandchild has an interest in her life because her memories should be written down. How awful for her parents to be put in an internment camp, but we had the same situation in the UK – war is the thing that is awful. It is so important for future generations to understand their roots and the lives their forebears led.

        I have so many stories I could tell and many more photographs, I think there’s a book in it somewhere!

        Thank you for your kind words, Charlene, I am so glad this has touched so many hearts – take care 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 9:40 am
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    What a wonderful memoir! Thanks for sharing it X

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:18 pm
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      Thank you so much 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 10:02 am
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    Dear Penny
    What a wonderful, understanding, balanced account of your parents and their lives. It’s so easy to stereotype and blame or settle for enthusing, all of which leave the complexity of truth way out. I’m sure that many women of that generation ‘settled’ for much less than their full potential. My mother was lucky – or determined, or encouraged by my father – to work part time in the voluntary organisation he ran and later on their own business. He was the ideas person, she was the practical organiser and support. Her elder sister married and did nothing apart from looking after her house, husband and son); her younger sister worked as an accountant’s secretary (she was apparently outstanding)and then, when she had her two children she became ‘just a housewife’. I always felt she had missed out, and she had episodes of anxiety and illness (psychosomatic? probably) even though the marriage was a good one. They were all intelligent women, probably constrained by the expectations and attitudes of the time. They helped give me and my cousins good nourishing childhoods, and in our different ways we have done well. Both the boys became top-of-their-tree accountants, and my cousin Judy and I were the ones to get degrees. Funny, that. loads love and thanks for today’s blog. It reminds me how important it is to use our talents even in our older age. So after collecting this week’s eggs I shall get back to my current writing again!!! xxx

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:38 pm
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      Thank you so much Wendy, and thanks for the family history you’e given me. Of course, I remember your mother and it’s good to hear she was encouraged by your father to work, what a different experience my mother had. But in the 50s and 60s the majority of women were at home, and it was considered a job to be done and done well. Nevertheless my mother was so isolated and lonely, and sadly, depressed a lot of the time. I really did rebel against the role model she was, and housework is not a favourite thing for me at all, although I will do the cleaning if it’s all about arranging a stylish look, things including furniture have to be just so!!!

      It is kind of sad that we understand our parents far more after they’ve gone, but of course, that’s when the curiosity rises and one says, who were they, really? Fascinating!!

  • 10th March 2021 at 10:05 am
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    Well said, Penny, and Hear Hear! to your salute to all women like your mother. Bless them, every one.

    My mother was lucky in that she did continue working for a while after marrying. She was a Civil Servant and I suppose her money came in handy. But she succumbed in the end and retired – no idea why – and, when I think of it now, was quite frustrated as a homebody, as she was a highly intelligent person and could/should have gone far in the Civil Service.

    Still, as her only child, I’ve carried the flag on her behalf. I’m stubborn, wilful, don’t iron (like you, yay!), and loving and loyal, so a mixed bag, like her. Good! But you know, it’s surprising how old habits can still prevail: I still find myself giving my husband the best of everything and the larger proportion when dishing up. A throwback from watching my grandmother and mother doing the same because as breadwinners, menfolk worked long and hard hours and needed all ‘the goodness’ they could get. It was just the accepted thing back then and do you know, 80 years on I can’t break that habit!

    But no way have I ever got changed into a nice little frock and dollied myself up to look nice for when my husband arrived home from the coalface. But wives used to! I bet your mother did!

    Those were the days!

    • 11th March 2021 at 3:46 pm
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      Ironing, I never iron anything unless I absolutely have to, and one of the reasons I prefer winter clothes rather than summer clothes – no ironing! There must have been so many frustrated and thwarted housewives, that’s why I so enjoyed sitting around the kitchen table raising our ‘consciousness’ amongst friends whilst at home with young children. Yes, I had 11 years at home – that was enough! But the future that we discussed was always so positive – I think now young women have quite a hard life, what with them expected to work as a matter of course, alongside bringing up the children and running the home. We’ve seen more of this with the pandemic and women doing much of home-schooling. So actually I feel quite privileged that I was at home when they were very young, and then got back to work. Definitely had the best of both worlds.

      Thanks Zepherine, I enjoyed hearing about your mother and her life 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 11:42 am
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    Thanks for that wonderful piece of writing about your mother. My mother was younger by about 10 years but shares some of the characteristics of your Mum( and what an attractive woman she was, you are lucky to look like her then and now).I do think that women my Mum’s age wrestled with the prejudice against women outside the home, and the inconsistencies of their lives. I think their mothers had it even worse, and probably we, from the much more enlightened but still essentially patriarchal 40s, 50s and 60s seem very odd to our own daughters who don’t understand the times we grew up in. We all adapted, and I thank goodness I didn’t have to put up with the pressures of producing a perfect home, beautiful food, and dressing up for when my husband came home! Hopefully our daughters have an easier time in the workplace but I quaver at the pressure they have now, to work from home, and be the pivot point of family life in this pandemic. I hope they come through it ok. Happy International Women’s Day!

    • 11th March 2021 at 5:01 pm
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      Thank you for those kind words, Trish and so interesting to hear about your mother. I think in the late 70s and early 80s we had one foot in the past life of domesticity, being at home when the children were young (for lack of child-care more than anything else) and one foot in a more enlightened life, that treated women as equals entitled to work if they wished to. I agree, with you that now women carry quite a burden with work expected of them, to be done alongside bringing up children. And yes, this is especially so during this pandemic, working with children at home and the consequent home-schooling. With you on this one. Take care 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 2:19 pm
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    Such beautiful writing. You are so lucky to be able to have some memories and stories to tell. I have found out some disturbing family secrets from an older cousin, and am sorry that I did not press harder for reasons as to why things were the way they were. There is no one else to ask now and it is too late for answers and I feel it is my own fault, however, I was often told that ” we just don’t talk about that”. I try to piece together things from pictures and realize that my mother had an exciting life before she married and wish I had dug deeper. Thank you for this wonderful trip you took us on and the pictures you share with us. Yes, I agree with everyone, your mother was a stunning woman, and you did get the good genes.

    • 11th March 2021 at 5:14 pm
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      Thank you Diane, the thing is I know I have a lot of material of both their lives, slightly more of my father because of his memoir, but still there are secrets in their lives, that I haven’t quite got at. When we finally understand that our mothers had lives before their marriage we can get to know them as people rather than parents and it’s actually very interesting. But oh how I wish I’d known certain things (that explain a lot) while they were alive.

      And thank you for your kind words – in fact I’m actually more like my father, with a longer face. My mother and sister had rounder faces. Take care 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 2:30 pm
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    It so very interesting to hear about your mother and your childhood. I think we are definitely fashioned from our upbringing, what we lived and observed whether we repeat those things in our adult life and make sure we don’t. I grew up with a strict father and I am definitely more even keel with my children and have a more balance approach.
    http://www.chezmireillefashiontravelmom.com

    • 12th March 2021 at 8:56 am
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      Thank you Mireille, I also a had strict father and was determined to be a different parent to my parents, which I was, but I also acknowledge that I didn’t get it right all the time! I look back and wish I’d done some things differently, however, I also realise that we all do our best, and that actually was what my parents were doing.

      Have a good Friday 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 2:37 pm
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    Hi Anne, that was such an interesting piece of writting. Your Mothere was a beautiful young woman, and I just love the photo of her as a child. I feel as I get older I see my parents, and wider family, in a different light, but I think that comes from having more life experience myself. My Grandmother lived with us for a number of years towards the end of her life, and I thought I knew quite a bit about the family background, but I still discovered so much more when I started a family tree. As you get older you realise your parents had experienced a lot of life before you came along. Its such a pity by that time they are gone and you cant ask all those little personal questions you have swirling in your mind.

    • 12th March 2021 at 8:59 am
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      Hi Katie, looking back I realise that my parents had many of their own struggles and issues to deal with and did their very best to be good parents. And I know, the questions I could ask now!!!

  • 10th March 2021 at 3:25 pm
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    Oh Penny, what a wonderful piece – I have loved reading this.
    Everyone has a story, don’t they?
    I agree that we see our parents differently as we get older. I have never been able to reconcile my mother’s brave, early career with the woman I grew up with. When she died I received letters from old colleagues of hers who talked about how jolly/gay/lively she was and I wondered why I’d never known that woman.

    • 12th March 2021 at 9:05 am
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      Honestly Eloise the stories I’ve got that are waiting to be told – I think I have a serious amount of writing to do!

      And yes, the clues of a happier and different life in my mother’s past are to be found in all the photographs I have of her younger days.

      Thanks 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 3:31 pm
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    What a wonderful piece of writing, Penny. So interesting and thought provoking. My mum was a bit older than yours. My parents got married in 1936 and at the start of the war my mum had a two year old, my brother. I remember her telling me that all her thoughts were to make sure he was safe and happy through the dangers of the war. Fortunately they were evacuated together so she was with him all the time. I don’t think she could have borne to send him off alone. Dad was in the RAF so they only saw him from time to time and my mum and brother remained a very tight unit throughout. My sister and I came along in 1949 and 1952. When he was 16 my brother joined the merchant navy and my mother accepted that with amazing equanimity. No weeping when he trundled off with his kit bag! But we know he remained her favourite, right up to her death 20 years ago at the age of 91. She was a very good mother. Extremely kind and supportive. Honest to a fault, and instilled in us the same values. She was one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever known – in contrast to my late mother in law who saw the worst in everything! With my own son I’ve tried to give him the same unconditional love she gave to my brother and us girls, but I also reflected on her insecurity and fears for his safety, so I encouraged my boy to be more physically active and bold. I can always remember her face when as a three year old he charged up to the top of a huge climbing frame and waved to her from on high. She was so glad when he got down, and told me off for letting him do it. Looking back I’m glad to have had a good relationship with her, and still chat to her in my head sometimes. We were lucky to have her for so long,

    • 12th March 2021 at 9:16 am
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      Oh Kathy that’s such a lovely tribute to your mother, and 91 was a good age to live to. It’s been so interesting to read everyone’s accounts of their mothers and childhoods, and, actually, I hope you’re writing this down somewhere, it’ll be even more interesting to your children and all your subsequent descendants.

      Thanks 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 3:40 pm
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    I really enjoyed reading this. I often wondered why my mother stayed with my father he was never happy in his work and apart from two weeks holiday when he was cheerful we had to tip toe round and often ‘don’t tell you father’ was heard in our house. At that time it was harder to get away once you were married. I’m 75 and I was almost 50 before we had the first divorce in our large extended family and yet I know there were many unhappy households.

    I think looking in the mirror and seeing your mother is common, you were lucky to have such a beautiful mother.

    • 12th March 2021 at 9:27 am
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      Oh yes, Flora, I kind of recognise that of ‘tip toeing’ around ones father, we definitely did that. He was not an easy man, but I recognise why now. Their marriage was so typical of those after the war, I think, of people ill-matched and yet, I agree, divorce was unheard of, and in so many ways impossible. However, looking back, they weren’t always unhappy, but neither were they, what I would call, happy, instead they became very dependent on each other, although I’d say my mother was totally dependent on him, and consequently didn’t much like living without him – she lived for 3 years after his death, but they were not good years. I expect you’d agree that one can never really judge other people’s marriages……!

  • 10th March 2021 at 7:12 pm
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    What wonderful photos! The fashion is wonderful and what a beautiful woman your mum was . Your Dad was a very handsome chap, too, I loved his moustache. Other people’s families are always so interesting…

    Yes, women of your mum’s and my mum’s era had very hard lives and we should all salute them. I realised on an NHS ‘Women into Management’ course in the 1980s, when I was a ward sister, that when asked about who my female role model was; it was my mother. She always worked when we were growing up and in the late 1970s went to college, having left school at 14, to study a residential social work course.

    Take care Penny.
    xxx

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:09 am
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      Hi Veronica, actually a few years back I did one of those photo books on exactly that, the fashion, from great-grandmother Campbell’s heavy crinoline dress to grandmother wearing Edwardian clothes to my mother wearing Crimplene. I called it from Crinoline to Crimplene!

      Your mother was an excellent role model which is so good to hear. You take care too xxx

  • 10th March 2021 at 7:27 pm
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    Oh I loved this Penny and pored over the photos! Your mother in 1920 – exquisite. You can see she was wearing the finest materials. It was a hard life for women then because there was no choice except to be stay at home mothers. My mum, now 88, loved being there with us but also yearned for the career she never had.

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:13 am
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      I have many more photos of both my mother and grandmother, and one of my great-grandmother wearing amazing clothes, in fact, I actually put together a photo book showing my mother’s clothes, my mother’s mother and her grandmother – called it From Crinoline to Crimplene. Have often thought of developing that to an actual book on fashion through the ages.

      Yes, when I was growing up I did not know any mother of any of my friends who had a job and/or a career – they all stayed at home. Different times.

  • 10th March 2021 at 8:21 pm
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    Your endearing story, telling pictures and positive perspecive was most appreciated today. Thank you. Judy.

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:16 am
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      Thank you so much Judy, I have learnt that despite everything that went on my parents really did want to be good parents and did their best to be exactly that. The fact that I wanted to parent differently doesn’t negate their efforts.

  • 10th March 2021 at 10:44 pm
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    I loved reading this post and seeing your photos. And of course I thought of my own mother and how she was an inspiration to me although there were times when our relationship was difficult. She was a woman who was ahead of her time. She came from an Italian working class family, the second of 5 children. According to my mother her father was a heavy drinker and could be abusive to both her own mother and the children. She was very bright and being a girl not encouraged to get an education. Nevertheless, she ran away to college so to speak, where she met my father. He, my dad, was one of 7. Neither family approved of the match. In those days the the marriage of an Italian and an Irishman was considered a mixed marriage. My mother was able to get her degree and even studied towards her masters. From the time I was 10, my brother 8, she went back to work as a social worker at a local hospital. I believe this is why I chose a similar career as a psychologist. She was not at all domestic, In my family my dad did most of the cooking. I do remember that the one thing she made each year without fail was cut out sugar cookies for the holidays, especially Christmas. I still have her cookie cutters. This valentines day after years of not even looking at them I did make the hearts. Anyway, I often felt that I was not the daughter she had imagined. She never seemed to find joy in in my happiness, as when I announced I was engaged or when I was pregnant. These things seemed to bring her concern rather then pleasure. Yet, when the marriage ended she was disappointed and critical. Over the years she became more and more anxious and reclusive, especially after my father died. She also became more openly angry at me. Her final years were quite difficult as she developed dementia. And yet she and my dad as well made it possible for me to go back to school for my advanced degrees and to work full time, as there was no other child care available.
    As I age I see myself becoming more like her, with increased anxieties and a tendency to withdraw more, which the pandemic has exacerbated. I try hard to fight it but some days I find myself scraping plans to get out, postponing errands until tomorrow. There are times I feel guilty in thinking harshly of my mother, she cannot have had an easy life. I try to remember the best parts of childhood, of which there were many.
    Well I have certainly rambled enough. but your post was so thought provoking, making me remember my own mom and family. You always have something interesting to say!
    Darby

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:27 am
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      Hi Darby and how interesting it is to hear of your family and how your mother was ahead of her time in working. She was a good role model, but I do understand the challenge of ‘getting on’ with ones parents. My father was strict and a bit dour, my mother was often sad and depressed (with good reason I think) and yet there was some happiness and they did their best for us. Perhaps I love them more now they have passed, which is bit sad, but inevitable as from life experience one begins to understand their issues and actually their quite difficult lives.

      And oh yes, I get how you wonder whether you’re getting more anxious and reclusive through this pandemic, and is it because we’re becoming like our mothers? But actually this is a rational response to a once in a 100-year event. We are living through extraordinary times, so we really must cut ourselves some slack – and hopefully the summer should bring some sense of normality.

      Like you, I can remember some lovely moments in my childhood, for instance, my mother really worked her socks off to give us a good Christmas, I can never replicate what she used to do, so I salute her for that and for many of her traits – she was just doing the best she could and for that I am thankful.

      Thanks Darby and take care 🙂

  • 10th March 2021 at 11:24 pm
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    I loved reading about your family this way Penny. Especially that you had such narrative from friends and all those photos!! Thanks for sharing!!
    OXOX
    Jodie
    http://www.jtouchofstyle.com
    PS…I feel that I too am turning into my mother many days!!

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:38 am
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      I have so many photos – and the stories I could tell! Think there’s a book in it somewhere!

      Thanks Jodie take care xxx

  • 11th March 2021 at 4:34 am
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    Your family looked so happy. Mine wasn’t, but we went through the motions and none of us knew any different. Thank you so much for your sweet story!
    Lynn

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:40 am
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      Well, there were happy times when I was young and they did their absolute best, but their marriage wasn’t particularly happy – and yet they stayed together for nearly 50 years.

      Thanks Lynn – take care 🙂

  • 11th March 2021 at 4:55 am
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    Penny, if I were able to just tweak a few facts, we would have very similar stories. Sadly people of that generation were very close mouthed about speaking about family matters, and I would love to be able to do it all again, insisting and asking until satisfied. My mother was a very beautiful lady as well, very artistic and bright who married at 36. She too became a depressed person, working constantly in the home, sacrificing all for us. It saddens me, our christmases were wonderful as well, but I know now it was 100% achieved by that woman in the kitchen, and for that reason I changed my family’s christmas traditions to accommodate me as well as them! (I raised my children with Xmas dinner on the 24th, then the Tree. Gifts, Visiting, for the 25th.) I feel only sorrow now when I think of what she could have been or done, and we selfishly gobbled up her care assuming it was our due. (she was born in Scotland, as your grandmother was). I never knew her inner person.
    I try not to keep secrets from my children now, at 78 I want them to know whatever they wish.
    ann

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:46 am
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      I so agree with you about not keeping secrets as I think there was one secret my mother kept that was buried deep, and yet that had a huge effect on her and ultimately on her children.

      Yes, you are so right, the Christmases we had were wonderful and I can remember so many details but all of it was on her. My father did the washing up!!! There were several attempts from me to do a completely different Christmas but I decided to go back to being conventional when both my kids asked rather sadly if we could please have a turkey on the actual Christmas day – I complied with their wishes. After all Christmas is best when you’re young!

      Thanks Ann 🙂

  • 11th March 2021 at 9:18 pm
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    I so enjoyed your article. One realises what a challenge life was for so many women of our mothers’ generation. My mother was born in 1925 and her sister the following year. They were both very intelligent girls but were forced to leave school at 14 to help their mother with housework and help care for their younger brother who was ten years’ younger. The two girls were not allowed very much freedom and anything like make up were prohibited. And sadly I am sure that she only married my father to escape her unhappy home life. He was a good man but they were never really compatible. I believe this experience caused her to have a restlessness and determination throughout her life.

    We were such a fortunate generation. I read that the best years to be born were between 1948 and 1950. We benefited from the NHS, a good free educational opportunities, free Higher education, relatively cheap housing and mortgages, full employment and good pensions and a freedom, our mothers could only have dreamed of. One felt that anything was possible.

    How sad that your mother’s lovely spirit was squashed to such an extent. Hopefully her soul was free and she could dream in her quieter moments.

    • 12th March 2021 at 11:51 am
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      I agree with you we were fortunate, as I stayed at home for 11 years then fulfilled all my efforts to educate myself and have a career, and weren’t we lucky to have a grant to go to uni? I would never have been able to get a degree as a mature student without that grant – I’m so grateful for that.

      Our mothers had hard lives – I am in awe of the sacrifices they made.

      Thanks Heather, it’s been so interesting to hear about other people’s lives. Take care 🙂

  • 12th March 2021 at 8:53 pm
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    I’ve really enjoyed reading your family story & the comments too . I think what this illustrates is that there is no perfect family or indeed perfect life . Most people are ‘wandering ‘ through life just trying to do their best , our parents included .

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