Round About a Pound a Week

Round About a Pound a WeekFascinating social history, with little judgement of its subjects Descriptive rather than prescriptive, with a lot of individual detail As it is quite old, all figures were given in.s.d which I do not understand but this only slightly affected my enjoyment of the book. Book describes the lives of working class families living on you guessed it from the title a pound a week between 1909 and 1913.This book hits back at people who say the poor should manage their money back and feed their kids better The classic example is porridge there was a big campaign by well meaning middle classes to try and get people to eat porridge What they failed to note was that although oats were affordable to the families in this book, milk and the gas to heat the porridge was not Jamie Oliver take note.The families in the study are not destitute but are the working class The book is written by a Fabian woman and many of the issues she brings up, like a living wage, are still relevant today So is the stigmatisation of those in poverty.There are some parts of this that are really interesting I live in Lambeth and am familiar with the streets that form the basis of this study However, there are a lot of lists and tables which I skimmed over. A classic book in many ways, primarily as emblematic of turn of the century Fabian feminism, and at the same time one of the first serious studies of working class women.It is heartbreaking.I read a large chunk of it in a most horrific yet insanely trendy and expensive hotel we had been put up in last minute as a result of an error in arrangements for a panel The Mondrian God People there dripped money and it heaved with staff anxious to help them and extremely expensive art in terribly bad taste and the prow of beaten copper pieces individually soldered had taken two and a half years to create and I sat there in the lobby waiting for my partner without the wherewithal to buy a drink reading about life in cellars and dead babies with tears literally dripping from my nose and the desire to smash all of it Because we re heading back there Back to 1913 this reads like Dickens but these conditions shamefully lasted well into the 20th Century Where they should have been abolished forever.So many babies died The rest slowly starved, along with their parents This book contains tables and tables of menus, hard choices, the relationships between housing and illness and death I love Virago Press, bless them for republishing it with Sally Alexander to deliver the splendid introduction.The Fabian Women s Group was actually founded in the home of Maud Pember Reeves in 1908, by Charlotte Wilson, anarchist and early member of the Fabian society They followed in a long tradition of philanthropy, but brought together women from multiple radical to reformist perhaps traditions who still believed in the move from individual solutions to social ones.Their goals were not small and have yet to be obtained The two immediate aims were equality in citizenship and women s economic independence xiv.I m going to delve into the Fabian Women s Group bookmarked for example, is the understanding of class differences in the struggle for gender equality laid out by Mabel Atkinson in The Economic Foundation of the Women s Movement Fabian Tract No 175 , but I so much loved this wonderful reminiscence about the shifting sands of feminism and the generation gap between older Fabians and younger There are also faint residues of Victorian standards of propriety about some of the older women When I asked Amber Blanco White for a description of her mother s friends in the FWG, she replied that there was never any time to meet any of them they were just a lot of women talking about very serious things Her mother thought it was important for girls to study their lessons most of the time having been well educated herself, and her mother before her, she wanted her daughters to grow up in the same way.Femininity tended to be identified with frivolity they kept a vigilant watch on this side of their character In the 1909 annual report of the Group, women were urged to cast aside feminine slackness and negligence with regard to their own affairs , and get on with the work of preparing for citizenship xviii xix.The scheme behind this study, the Mother Allowance Scheme which attempted to make a measurable impact in infant well being and survival started within a year of the group s founding I think Alexander nails what is important about both the nature of the study and the book that was produced, as this was unique in investigating the daily circumstances of women s lives, how they coped with continual damp, vermin, inadequate food x I liked this as well the conclusions were inescapable the cause of infant mortality was not that mothers were ignorant or degenerate, but that they had too little money to provide for their own and their families essential needs xi The book is quite full of fantastic descriptions of the area There are a number of longer quotes courtesy of, I could never have typed them from my vintage hardcopy, but they are worth looking at in full TAKE a tram from Victoria to Vauxhall Station Get out under the railway arch which faces Vauxhall Bridge, and there you will find Ken nington Lane The railway arch roofs in a din which reduces the roar of trains continually passing overhead to a vibrating, muffled rumble From either end of the arch comes a close procession of trams, motor buses, brewers drays, coal lorries, carts filled with unspeakable material for glue factory and tannery, motor cars, coster barrows, and people It is a stopping place for tramcars and motor buses therefore little knots of agitated persons continually collect on both pathways, and dive between the vehicles and descending passengers in order to board the particular bus or tram they desire At rhythmic intervals all traffic through the arch is suspended to allow a flood of trams, buses, drays, and vans, to surge and rattle and bang across the opening of the archway which faces the river.At the opposite end there is no cross current The trams slide away to the right towards the Oval In front is Kennington Lane, and to the left, at right angles, a narrow street connects with Vauxhall Walk, leading farther on into Lambeth Walk, both locally better known as The Walk Such is the western gateway to the district stretching north to Lambeth Road, south to Lansdowne Road, and east to Walworth Road, where live the people whose lives form the subject of this book.They are not the poorest people of the district Far from it They are, putting aside the tradesmen whose shops line the big thoroughfares such as Kennington Road or Kennington Park Road, some of the enviable and settled inhabitants of this part of the world The poorest people the river side casual, the workhouse in and out, the bar room loafer are anxiously ignored by these respectable persons whose work is permanent, as permanency goes in Lambeth, and whose wages range from i8s to 305 a week They generally are somebody s labourer, mate, or handyman Painters labourers, plumbers labourers, builders handymen, dustmen s mates, printers labourers, potters labourers, trouncers for carmen, are common amongst them Or they may be fish fryers, tailors pressers, feather cleaners assistants, railway carriage washers, employees of dust contractors, carmen for Borough Council contractors, or packers of various descriptions 2 3.The streets they live in are monotonously and drearily decent, lying back from the main arteries, and with little traffic other than a stray barrel organ, a coal lorry selling by the hundredweight sack, or a taxi cab going to or from its driver s dinner at home At certain hours in the day before morning school, at midday, and after four o clock these narrow streets become full of screaming, running, shouting children Early in the morning men come from every door and pass out of sight At different times during the evening the same men straggle home again At all other hours the street is quiet and desperately dull Less ultra respectable neighbourhoods may have a certain picturesqueness, or give a sense of community of interest or of careless comradeship, with their untidy women chatting in the doorways and their unoccupied men lounging at the street corners but in these superior streets a kind of dull aloofness seems to be the order of the day 3.The houses are outwardly decent two stories of grimy brick The roadway is narrow, but on the whole well kept, and on the pavement outside many doors there is to be noticed, in a greater or less condition of freshness, a semicircle of hearthstone, which has for its radius the length of the housewife s arm as she kneels on the step In some streets little paved alleyways lead behind the front row of houses, and twist and turn among still smaller dwellings at the back dwellings where the front door leads downwards into a room instead of upwards into a passage Districts of this kind cover dreary acres the same little two story house, with or without an inconceivably drearier basement, with the same kind of baker s shop at the corner faced by the same kind of greengrocer s shop opposite The ugly, constantly recurring school buildings are a relief to the spirit oppressed by the awful monotony 4 5.The description of the study, and social experiment, is fairly astonishing in its matter of fact summation of widespread desperate poverty that hopefully we will never return to A sum of money was placed at the disposal of this committee in order to enable them to study the effect on mother and child of sufficient nourishment before and after birth Access was obtained to the list of out patients of a well known lying in hospital names and addresses of expectant mothers were taken from the list, and a couple of visitors were instructed to undertake the weekly task of seeing each woman in her own home, supplying the nourishment, and noting the effects From as long as three months before birth, if possible, till the child was a year old, the visits were to continue The committee decided that the wives of men receiving over 26s a week were likely to have already sufficient nourishment, while the wives of men out of work or receiving less than i8s a week were likely to be living in a state of such misery that the temptation to let the rest of the family share in the mother s and baby s nourishment would be too great 8.As if that weren t bad enough, they were in for another unexpected surprise when actually faced with the realities of people s lives It was at first proposed to rule out disease, but pulmonary and respiratory disease were found to be so common that to rule them out would be to refuse about half the cases It was therefore decided to regard such a condition of health as normal, and to refuse only such cases of active or malignant disease in the parents as might, in the doctor s opinion, completely wreck the child s chance of a healthy life 9.And to me unsurprisingly, but to them, busy checking and rechecking the honesty of their subjects because so much of this book is about middle class prejudices, though I give them credit for overcoming them to an impressive extent in understanding at least the objective conditions faced by working families the budgets have borne out each other in the most striking manner There seems to be so little choice in the manner of keeping a family on 2os a week 12.There are some great little sections of immense detail hinting at the riches held in the actual archives Emma, aged eleven, began as follows Mr G s wages was 19 bob out of that e took thruppons for es diner witch is not mutch e bein sutch a arty man The rent was six and Mrs G payed fower an six because Bobby s boots was off is feet and his knew ones was one an six witch makes six and that leaves 12 an 9 and out of that, etc It took four pages of painstaking manuscript in a school exercise book to complete one week 14.And even these judgmental and haughty women could be humbled and acknowledged it The women who kept their accounts for themselves were found to be better arithmeticians than they were writers Their addition had a disconcerting way of being correct, even when the visitor seemed to get a different total 14.There is also some level of self awareness here, of the intrusion such a study represents and the cost born by the working women involved At the beginning of each case the woman seemed to steel herself to sit patiently and bear it while the expected questions or teaching of something should follow 16.Read the rest here. This book, published in 1913, is truly outstanding, and by the original definition of the word outstanding Which means that such a thing book or not stands out among others of its kind And in this book Maud Pember Reeves did something that truly stood out Over the prior century many, many books and articles had been published in Britain about the household economies of the poor, at first tut tutting over the perceived inability of the poor to responsibly manage their cash outlays and then only bit by bit admitting that the poor were really fellow human beings with claims on middle and upper class empathy Maud Pember Reeves comes at the end of a long line of busybody, middle and upper class authors of censorious tractates thrown at the heads of the poor like grenades But Reeves does it right Reeves has obviously read and learned And for Reeves the poor are members of the same species to which she belongs, worthy of the same serious, understated attention and concern as real nieces or nephews In the history of British minds and attitudes, this was a truly vast improvement.Yet this book deserves than praise It set off in my own mind a series of linked thoughts that I believe should be noted For any of you out there with not much , but than an inkling about the progress of our species over the past three or four thousand years, Reeves work prompts what used to be called home thoughts but now could be characterized as reflections on whatever moral progress the human race has made in its recorded history And Reeves book does this prompting by pointing up the contrast with its predecessors and focusing our attention once again on those predecessors, as well as on ourselves today.It would appear that for the great balance of human history it was impossible for almost all people to expand the realm of their own and their families humanity to include even the majority of the people around them Paleo anthropologists have theorized that we evolved to live in extended groups of from 150 225 people, and, if so, all others would not have been people It would be very interesting indeed to read a work devoted to investigating the sense of self and other in the ancient world, and the extent to which, if at all, the great religions in any way expanded this sense of humanity.Until quite recent times, though, extensive, personal self definitions of humanity were few and far between And there has always been a continuing, rear guard struggle against the inclusive formulae of documents such as the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration des Droits de l Homme The push for larger and larger definitions of humanity has accelerated, however, over the past century, and is responsible for significant changes in views of different races, genders, ethnicities, religions, sexual preferences, etc., etc We owe a lot to many people like Maud Pember Reeves who have bravely lived up to their own high standards of inclusiveness May there continue to be many such. Written in 1913 as the result of what we would now call an intensive round of social work and observation among working class families in Lambeth, London, Round About a Pound a Week offers a shocking insight in the daily lives of the not even very poor in early twentieth century England We are shown the remarkable ingenuity of women in stretching the 20 weekly shillings coming in, the nonsensical advice of well meaning middle class visitors advising the women to buy fresh milk, not realizing that a four pence a quart, fresh milk is an unaffordable luxury and the ever present spectre of child mortality with well over one in four children dying of malnutrition or disease, often than not caused by cramped unhygienic housing All this, in a relatively dispassionate register makes for confrontational reading, leading to the sense that there is to our past than meets the eye. This simple little book should be compulsory reading for anyone feeling sorry for themselves because they are short of money Less than 100 years ago respectable people with a reasonable steady job living in Lambeth area would have to be able to keep a family maybe with 6 8 children on round about a pound a week But the most shocking part of it was that over 5% of each week s money had to go on Burial Insurance because if even the tiniest child had to be buried in a paupers grave the breadwinner had to be declared bankrupt and would be unlikely to ever find work again The group of Fabian women who did this research described their visits to Lambeth as a plunge into Hades but their findings at least created some understanding of the poor people and a realisation that these people were not wastrels they were wonderful money managers Brilliant, contemporary social history A Fabian Society project to chronicle the lives of working class families surviving, barely, on wages of one pound a week These were not the poorest of families, having a breadwinner with a respectable and reliable job Yet these were below subsistence wages The unspoken question is how do the poorer families survive Alongside The Classic Slum as an illuminating study from first hand of the lives of poor people in the early 20th century, Everyone should read this telling document of social history At the beginning of the last century vast swathes of the population worked in towns and cities earning around about a pound a week The author details in blunt terms how it is impossible to raise a healthy family on this amount And she is not shy with her criticism of all the do gooders who think they could better and who brand these families as feckless spendthrifts The birth of socialism and the recognition of the importance of women are important themes here too Eye opening. What a fascinating book The Fabian Society, a socialist group, did a study of poor but not destitute mothers in London in 1909 11 The idea was to give nursing mothers an allowance of milk for themselves only, for 3 months before and 9 months after they gave birth and to study what difference this made to the health of the new baby compared with their other children they all had several The mothers who were selected had husbands in steady work who gave their wives a housekeeping allowance of around 1 a week The rationale was that women who had money might be adequately nourished already, and women who had less would be too tempted to give their milk to the rest of the family In the process of the study, Maud Pember Reeves and other Fabian ladies visited regularly and noted the women s housing situation They asked the women to keep accounts to show how their housekeeping money was spent and also to record the family s menu for a week At the end of the study the Fabians first published a pamphlet calling for government support for poor working families, and this book grew out of that.The budgets and menus are just riveting The money might be difficult for non British people and younger Brits because I don t think it is anywhere explained that 12 pennies made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound I can just about remember old money myself So the wives had an allowance of around one pound, i.e 20 shillings of which about 7 would go on rent Then there were other necessities like coal and or gas, funeral insurance vital , cleaning materials and clothing when they could afford it Whatever was left was spent on food It didn t buy much.The women and children had bread and margarine for breakfast and supper, plus a cup of tea in which they might have a splash of tinned milk Then they mostly had potatoes and a little bit of meat or fish for dinner at lunchtime The husband had to be fed meat to give him enough energy to do his physical work, so he would have bacon, fish or an egg with his breakfast and or tea They had a bigger meal on Sundays and that was the only time most families had any green vegetable Fruit was out of the question.It s incredible how little room for manoeuvre these women had Some of them were raising four or children in two rooms A four roomed house would be shared either between two families or one family and a lodger In most cases they slept four or in a bed, including two children in the parents bed The book is not just a list of accounts by any means There s a lot of information about their living conditions and the individual personalities come across clearly through little anecdotes Maud Pember Reeves exposes a lot of myths believed by the middle classes e.g that the poor spent their money on drink these people certainly didn t or that they could manage their money better if they were careful But what I loved about it was the way it brought these real people to life through the pennies and halfpennies that they spent The book was published in 1913, and it s terrible to think that after all their struggle, many of the husbands and older boys were probably dead on the battlefields of Flanders a few years later.In the introduction it says that 1 a week 100 years ago is worth about 70 today 100 US but you can t really compare because the relative prices of things are different There s no way you could rent even one tiny room in London for 25 a week now I wonder if it would be possible to feed a family of 6 or 8 people on 30 40 if they had that same diet with very little meat, no fruit, almost no vegetables and really, almost a starvation diet Maybe, but it s scary to think of having to do it, week after week, year after year.Definitely one to re read whenever I m feeling impoverished, to remind me that I m really not This Is A Study Of Working Class Life In Lambeth, London, In The Early Years Of The Th Century That Is Witty, Readable, Poignant And FascinatingIn A Group Of Women, All Of Them Members Of The Feminist, Left Wing Fabian Women S Group, Would Regularly Leave Their Comfortable Homes In Kensington And Hampstead And Call On Forty Two Families In Lambeth In Order To Interview Them About Their Everyday Life They Wrote Down Their Findings And In These Were Written Up As A Twenty Page Fabian Tract Which Maud Pember Reeves And Her Co Author Charlotte Wilson Decided To Turn Into The Snappily Titled Round About A Pound A Week The Sixteen Chapters, Covering Such Topics As Housing, Thrift, Food And Mothers Days, Resulted In A Book Of Stunning Interest And Originality Which Has Never Really Been Rivalled In The Nearly Years Since First Publication In

Maud Pember Reeves born Magdalene Stuart Robison was a feminist, writer and member of the Fabian Society She was born in Australia but spent most of her life in New Zealand and Britain.Her father was a bank manager and the family moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 1868 In 1885 she married the journalist and politician William Pember Reeves and became interested in socialism and the suffrage

[EPUB] ✰ Round About a Pound a Week By Maud Pember Reeves –
  • Paperback
  • 217 pages
  • Round About a Pound a Week
  • Maud Pember Reeves
  • English
  • 12 April 2017
  • 9781903155691

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