Saturday, July 18, 2015

No Surrender by Constance E. Maud - Persephone Book

Hi Dear Folk,

My goodness now don't all fall off your perches, but I am posting and actually posting a book review.  It's not that I haven't been reading somewhat, although not as much as I would like to.  As my time for reading is valuable I don't like to waste time starting books that turn out to be awful, so quite often I will stick to a Persephone book, tried and true so to speak.  As you will remember or maybe not, I started my own rating of Persephone books as I read them.  One to five stars, five being the top.

No Surrender, by Constance E. Maud is a book of it's time period, but some social commentaries would hold true for today.  The subject is women's suffrage.  I was able to obtain this book from my local library in old shelving just love those archives.  This copy was published in 1912 by  The John Lane Company, New York, printed in Great Britain by William Brendon and Son, Ltd, Plymouth.

The opening chapters are set in the Black Country, Textile Mills of North England. Jenny Clegg is our heroine she works in a mill, she has an invalid brother Peter, a sister Liz married to an alcoholic, who sends their children away to a distant relative in Australia and Liz has no say over the matter, the law is not on her side; a father who gets drunk and takes all the household money, even the little bit her passive mother had put aside in the Co op Society.  Joe Horton is a Union leader and wants to marry Jenny, he is an up and coming star in the political arena.

Mrs Keziah Topper a neighbor and widow, mother of five children, lives next door to Mrs Clegg and experiences the need of equal pay for women, as all the women do in this neighbourhood.

Contrasted to this are the residents of Brankenhill Hall, the mill owners.  The main character of which is Mary O'Neil a cousin visiting from the Irish side of the family and has sympathy for the workers, although not a true understanding of what they go through, how could she?

Jenny, Keziah and Mary become staunch friends for the cause of women's suffrage.  Jenny and Keziah take a train along with other mill girls, in their mill dress and clogs, down to London to picket for the cause; they know that they will be imprisoned and expect this, but not for as long as the judge sends them down for.  During this stay they meet and befriend many women from all walks of life and different age groups, the Suffragette movement is the great equalizer and sisterhood.

One of the persons she meets in prison is -

Miss Chadwick, a lively, capable-looking woman of the New England type, stood side by side, getting what support they could out of the irresponsive wall.

"We don't call you 'free England,' my dear," Laughed the American lady, "we call you 'poor benighted old England.'"  Says Euphrasia Chadwick from Colorado.

"I love fairy tales, they always seems to me just the truest tales ever written," said Jenny.

One becomes privy to any number of conversations going on in the prison and it is certainly an inside view, excuse the pun, of the conversations that were going on at that time 1912.  Jenny's speech and way is appealing to her audience and she is recruited by higher ups to leave her job at the mill and work full time for the cause.

Here is an interesting commentary on the motor car, remember 1912

The motor-car had also been pressed into the service, and in working for this truly democratic measure, thereby partly atoned for some of its sins as the rich man's luxury, overrunning the country as it does, and destroying in its blind, selfish course the cottage garden and the peace and safety of the village street for children and old people.

One of the leading suffragettes was a Mrs. Wilmot who Jenny goes to stay with.

It was June.  In the heather and pine country of Surrey, which looks as though it had been sliced out of Perthshire, and dropped down within easy reach of the poor toiling Londoner, by a beneficent giant, stood Mrs. Wilmot's pleasant little bungalow ...

Jack Mrs. Wilmot's son is in love with Jenny.  Some interesting conversations with Mrs. Wilmot's cousin, who does not believe in the cause, while all are sitting in the garden partaking of afternoon tea.

"Oh yes," she laughed.  "Anarchists always have a motor ready to take them away after flinging their bombs.  I believe that's why you have one-and all Christian Scientists say they ought to be rich.  Mrs. Eddy's teaching is that poverty is only an error of mortal mind.  I think of joining the sect to see if my bills will get paid."

Later a talk with Jack on their own.

Jenny shook her head sadly.  She liked him;  he was much younger than she had thought;  she hated giving him pain.

"Oh yes, it is," said Jenny.  "It's only what we've lived through as we can feel-that's what shapes our thoughts and shapes our souls.  You must work in your class, God knows you're needed there, and I must work in mine."

Things come to a head, when Jenny, who has sort employment as a maid to gain access to a dinner party being attended by many political men, including Joe Horton.  Mary O'Neil hosts the party in the London house while her aunt is away.  It is at this time that Joe Horton is won over to the cause.

There are many interesting observations on character, jumping to near the end here is one I found very interesting, about Alice Walker who is engaged to Mary O'Neil's brother Terence.

Alice Walker was one of those young women who, while impressing their menkind with their pliability and malleability, retain intact an absolute inflexibility of character, the hardest of all natures to be influenced or convince from the outside, being fundamentally lacking in the suppleness which appears to mere man their chief charm.  To know them he has to marry them and even then such is the guilelessness of many of the self-styled superior sex, that after years of matrimony: ...

Thoughts on a women's suffrage march.

These were those who had borne the toil and heat of life's long day-working, digging, ploughing, sowing, since early womanhood.  Side by side with these marched their younger sisters, the gallant leaders of the great Social and Political Union, whose heroic courage and devotion, even to the death test, had lifted the question of Woman's enfranchisement at last into the arena of practical politics. 

I do like this passage because it gives you an insight of who was involved and many of the trades at the time.

Textile workers from Lancashire and Yorkshire in their shawls and clogs.  Swarthy, strong-limbed Welsh women from the pit's mouth;  sweated tailoresses, doing government work on sailors' and soldiers' uniforms at half men's pay;  post office clerks, who had also experienced the bitter difference between justice as meted out to those with the vote and those without;  chain-makers, jelly-makers, each bearing on a banner the emblem of their trade;  on and on they came.  ...

If one was studying this subject it would be an excellent book to read, how it would shape a picture in your mind of this time period and the suffrage movement.

Did I like this book?  Yes.  How would I rate it, out of five, two stars in the Persephone library.  It did not move me as many other Persephone books have, but still a good read.

I happened to be listening to the BBC about equal pay, today it seems the best Western country to live in for equal rights on pay is New Zealand, just a thought girls, I have still to visit there it's on my list.

Signing off.

1 comment:

  1. The book sounds interesting. I don't seem to read much in the summer though. Yes I want to go to New Zealand too.


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