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Can Any Mother Help Me? [Hardcover]

Jenna Bailey
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Mar 2007

Can Any Mother Help Me?

Fifty Years of Friendship through a Secret Magazine

Jenna Bailey

In 1935, a young woman wrote a letter to the women's magazine Nursery World:

'Can any mother help me? I live a very lonely life as I have no near neighbours. I cannot afford to buy a wireless. I adore reading, but with no library am very limited with books ... I know it is bad to brood and breed hard thoughts. Can any reader suggest an occupation that will intrigue me and exclude 'thinking' and cost nothing!'

Women from all over the country wrote back expressing similar frustrations. They were full of ideas and opinions but had nowhere to express them. So they decided to start a private magazine.

The Cooperative Correspondence Club - or CCC as it quickly became known - was a place for these women to describe the subjects close to their heart: the pain and elation of childbirth, difficulties during wartime, or the struggles and comedies of daily life. None of the women anticipated the way that the magazine would come to play such an important part in their lives.

In Can Any Mother Help Me? Jenna Bailey presents the extraordinary group of wives and mothers whose lives connected through a magazine. Her book is an intimate and moving collection of personal stories and, above all, a portrait of inseparable friendships.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st Edition edition (1 Mar 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571233139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571233137
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 16 x 4.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 325,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A fascinating picture of what it meant to be a woman - and a mother - throughout the 20th century.'
-- Easy Living

'A marvellous book about women's lives in the 20th century ... By the end, they feel like friends.' -- Financial Times

'A unique record of female friendship during the last century ... They write in intimate detail, often as events unfold ... Engrossing.' -- Guardian

'A valuable record of the necessity of friendship and the difficultly, elation and boredom of motherhood.'
-- Daily Telegraph

'Beautifully written and emotionally engaging. Bailey's selection
and organisation of the material is very good indeed.'
-- Telegraph

'Gruelling childbirth anecdotes jostle for space with war stories and tales of unrequited love for the GP ... Fascinating.' -- Evening Standard

'Jenna Bailey has skilfully compiled and edited some of what survives from the magazines ... compelling.' -- London Review of Books

'The women's letters (honest, articulate, humorous and moving) reflect their distinct backgrounds, families and politics, and their shared resilience and humour.' -- Sunday Times

`Fantastically absorbing, frequently funny ... gives us a
remarkable opportunity to indulge in that most human of pleasures,
eavesdropping.' -- Observer

`The standard of writing is amazing. Historian Jenna Bailey has
done us all a service that goes beyond a contribution to women's history.'
-- Times

Book Description

An extraordinary true story of motherhood, friendship and a secret magazine, which is both compelling and thought-provoking. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant stories 27 Mar 2007
This is a wonderful book - I picked it up based on a recommendation and wasn't sure if I was going to be all that interested, but it is absolutely captivating. The stories of these women are remarkable, and the tale of their friendship, held together mainly by letters over half a century, is extraordinary. It's very well edited, too, as the letters have been carefully chosen and little background biographies are provided for all the women.
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65 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Life of the Housewife. 30 July 2007
By Susanna
This is an insight into the isolation of women at home with children particularly between the wars when married women were not allowed to work outside the home and some could not even afford a radio for company. No mod cons but mindless housework left thoughtful women in need of intelligent company which they found through their correspondence club. From young mothers to widowhood and their eventual deaths this a moving selction of their writing. Incidentally my mother in law was one of the original members.
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Book 21 Mar 2007
This is a wonderful book. As it traces the lives of these so articulate ladies from the mid 1930's and beyond it is an invaluable social history. These letters so beautifully written are funny, poignant, illuminating and finally so sad as the trials of life and finally old age are endured. The author is to be complemented on her sensitive organisation of the material.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Stromata VINE VOICE
Thesis...Mass Observation Unit....all sounds such an unlikely premise for an absorbing read, but this book is exactly that. Jenna Bailey uncovered the story of the CCC (the Cooperative Correspondence Club), a group of women coping with family life during wartime Britain in the 1940s and after, whilst searching for a suitable subject for her Masters thesis. The CCC was formed when a cry of help in the shape of a letter to `Nursery World' magazine was answered by an assortment of other lively, intelligent women eager to connect with a world outside of domestic drudgery and child rearing.

`Can Any Mother Help Me?' is part history, how women coped during that period and what was expected of them, and part biography, each of the participants have really rather interesting lives. A well presented and rivetting read - highly recommended.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars before the internet 31 Oct 2007
I loved this book. As a mother I know how isolating being at home can be, and this books gives a great example of how women used their ingenuity to keep in touch in the days before cheap technology. The stories are wonderful, and I felt I really got to know the women, even though they were anonymous. A great read, and can be read in little bursts if you don't have much time!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No nappies or sleepless nights 6 Dec 2008
Somehow, the title of this book had put me off. I knew that the Cooperative Correspondence Club began after a young mother wrote to a woman's magazine in 1935 complaining of her lonely life and asking Can Any Mother Help? So I jumped to the conclusion that the CCC would be a forum for helpful tips about potty training and pureed carrots.
How wrong I was. The women who contributed to the CCC's round robin 'magazine' were articulate, highly educated feminists and the friendships they made through the mag were their lifeline. Imagine this: Cornelia and Pat married in 1924 when she was 30 and he was 24 and had a job at the Westminster Bank. They had to wait for the bank's approval (dependent on income) before they could marry; they were offered a mortgage, but only if Pat promised 'never to speak from a public platform' and never to buy anything on hire purchase (feistily, he refused); and Cornelia had to give up a well-paid job that she loved - she earned more than her young husband - because the bank refused to allow employees' wives to work. I felt so spitting mad on Cornelia's behalf that I felt like closing my own NatWest account.
For 50 years, the women wrote so frankly about the ups and downs of their lives - a nervous breakdown, a heart-wrenching divorce, experiences of childbirth and heartbreaking widowhood - that some chapters reduced me to tears. In old age, when some were in care homes, their pen-friendships, as long as they could write, kept them sane. (The book doesn't go into details, only that some of them failed to find 'kindred spirits' in their nursing homes - and you feel a surge of compassion for these clever women, aching for intelligent company and offered what? Bingo?
Read more ›
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How much has changed - and how little 25 Oct 2007
I was stunned at how incredibly funny/sad/brave/strong and wonderful these women were. The forerunner to internet forums(!) but how much more intelligent.

I was torn by it being a crime NOT being able to work (with an agile brain) and then seeing how life morphed into being possible.

In some respects I had to give up work when I had children (only 7 years ago) and I feel as if I'm a martian - but at least I see that I'm a martian in fine company.

An excellent and thought provoking read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful find 3 Jan 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came across this book by accident while browsing and bought it on impulse and am so glad I did. It's a wonderful book which provides a fascinating insight into the lives of a group of intelligent women from all over Britain who contributed to a secret magazine. It started in 1935 when a young mum wrote a letter to a magazine saying she was lonely and bored and asking if any mother could help her. Women responded to her plea and the Cooperative Correspondence Club came into existence. Author Jenna Bailey found their correspondence in the Mass Observation archive and put the book together.
It is a fascinating piece of social history and it's engaging and funny and moving. The women write honestly and openly about their lives - marriage, childbirth, the end of dreams, the loneliness of being a wife when a woman's place was in the home and by the end of the book you feel you've known them for years. It will still strike a chord with many women today - especially women who write. Reviewed by Mary Smith author of No More Mulberries
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
This was an extremely interesting book, recounting the lives and experiences of a number of women through good times and bad. Some interesting historical insights. Read more
Published 17 days ago by C. G. Williams
2.0 out of 5 stars I so wanted to like this book, but found it just too dull
I really wanted to like this book, but was frustrated at the poor format, particularly in the second half of the book, where the editor/author has raced through biographies in her... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ambitious Mum
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed portrait of women's lives in the middle of the last century.
Worth reading to remind people how narrow and limited women's lives were in 1935 onwards. Intimate and varied portraits provide the interest of the book.
Published 12 months ago by Mrs. Judith Worham
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely wonderful
What a beautiful read. I'm very sorry to say goodbye to the CCC and all the amazing women in it.
Published 13 months ago by marathon runner to be
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable read
I would recommend this book about the lives of lonely mothers set in the 1930's. A thorougly good read about how hard it was at that time for women.
Published 13 months ago by Hazel
5.0 out of 5 stars Can any mother help me?
This was a truly delightful book which I would throughly recommend. It was hard to put it down. It dips in and out of the lives of a group of geographically isolated women who had... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mrs. J. Catley
5.0 out of 5 stars this certainly helps
wonderful insight into the lives of great women, Jenna bailey has done a fantastic job of bringing the CCC to life again
Published 14 months ago by Mrs. Jane L. Rhodes
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book
A brilliant book, unlike anything else you'll every read. Strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in social history and women's lives.
Published 14 months ago by Dr Josephine M Green
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating correspondence between women over many years
These women wrote about everything from sex and childbirth, via work and relationships, to illness, old age and bereavement. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mrs H L Cooke
3.0 out of 5 stars "Grand girls, ordinary godesses..."
This is a quite remarkable story about how a diverse group of women living all over the British Isles found the friendship, practical advice and help they needed, through the... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Eileen Shaw
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