Fascinating. You just can't find this kind of social history in ANY history book!
She did the world a favour by writing this before all the little things history teachers never tell you are lost forever. She talks about everything from the way shops were laid out, to the prejudices, the casual violence, drinking culture, sexual abuse, housing, schooling and even the transition from horse and cart to 'motor car'. She summarises East End culture really well.
A lot of these books contain lots of nostalgic sentiments - but she talks lots about what she likes about life now and the changes for the better. An interesting new view from the constant nostalgic backward-glance as from so many authors of this type of book.
It was so interesting I read it in about two hours. She was also clearly a real character! I would recommend it to absolutely everyone - it really makes you grateful for what you have in 2012 and that's something that everyone could make use of when you're having a 'bad day'.
I hope she is resting in peace now and I'm glad her story was told before it was lost forever.
This short and simple biography of maid Rose Plummer, in her own words but told by Tom Quinn, makes for fascinating reading. It lifts the lid on the life of those 'below stairs' in a way which dispels most of the sentimentality which is prone to envelop the world of domestic service through time and during her era. Rose's tale is told in a very readable way and is an easy and enjoyable book, exposing many foibles of her erstwhile employers and disclosing some funny facts about life during her day. Who knew, for example, that girls would pay a soldier sixpence to escort them around the park during their time off? Rose clearly never accepted her lot, but she mostly bore it cheerfully, though militantly, and speaks with affection of her humble family background in Hoxton, London. I found it easy to identify with her and was delighted that she escaped domestic service through marriage to a man she clearly adored and had a long and happy marriage with. This book is a tiny, encapsulated social history, which it would be easy to overlook, but I wholeheartedly recommend it.
This is one of those chatty over the tea cup books. It's a quick, easy read leaving you in no doubt as to how hard life was for servants in the 1930s, or from what impoverished backgrounds most of them came from. Life wasn't all grim, however. According to Rose, whose story this is, there was always the excitement of ratting evening to look forward to. The servants would watch as a terrier dog was let loose in the kitchen to kill the mice - and there was the satisfaction of spitting in madam's soup if she became too obnoxious. No illusions here of the good old days, but a very interesting read for people who enjoy social history, as I do. I certainly came across a thing or two I hadn't known before.
This simple book is the story of one woman's time in service between the wars. Rose was born to a poor family, who decided for her that she would be better off working in service. She relates, in a simple and straightforward way, her experiences of working for a number of familes in a time when the class system, and those held captive by it, was about to be changed forever. The First World War, and the growth of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions, were allowing the working classes to value themselves, and realise that they had real power to change things. The process was really completed by the Second World War, and the lives of the rich - and their domestic staff - would never be the same again. Rose was in service at the end of this process, and her observations on her own life, and those of her fellow domestics, and their employers are really worth a read. She starts off as a naive girl, who gradually learns the ins and outs of service, and how best to deal with her situation. Ultimately, she escapes the drudgery, and although never rich, finds a life that was obviously happy and fulfilling.
What a vital record of social history this is. It is so important that witness accounts like this are recorded for posterity before those who lived them pass away and their memories are lost.
Rose Plummer worked as a housemaid in a succession of wealthy houses in the twenties and thirties. She recounted her memoirs to author Tom Quinn not long before her death in 1994.
Rose was brought up in the poorest part of London before the first world war. The sights, sounds (and smells!) of the old East End are remembered vividly. This is domestic service as it truly was - forget the romanticization of certain saccharine television period dramas. As you read Rose's story, you'll feel for yourself the housemaid's knee from cleaning steps, sore and blistered hands from scrubbing pots and pans, above all, the drudgery and indignities suffered by these virtual slaves - Rose was sexually assaulted by an employer on at least one occasion.
It is not a particularly well-written book - the prose is rather stale with unnecessary disruptions to the timeline - but it is still a good, and thought-provoking, read. I'll never moan about my employers again!
I thought this was a wonderful book. It really gave an insight into what life was really like below stairs and it's incredible to think it was all barely 80 years ago that such strong class differences existed! I think Rose was a real character of a a woman and it really showed the other side of life for most of the population at the time. It really drives home how oppressed women were: A life of drudgery & hard work if you were from the 'lower' class; which was most of the population, and a very regimented life if you were from the 'upper' class. After reading this book, it made me appreciate how lucky I am as a woman to have been born in the modern age. This book is not only a very good read but also a great piece of history, told by a fiesty woman who lived through it.