Product Information

Round About a Pound a Week

Product Code: ROUFJPCQ74


By Maud Pember Reeves, a founding Fabian and prominent women's Suffragist. In 1913, Pember Reeves published this volume of exhaustive case studies of domestic life for the women of Lambeth, then (even more than now) a dreadfully downtrodden area very much on the wrong side of the river - despite the eminent cathedral and Archbishop's palace at its heart.

This is bare-knuckled but engaging social commentary, deep-rooted in fact - and contains much to amaze and inspire the modern householder. Whatever your income level, whatever the struggles you might face, this journey into the darkest of times will only serve to fill you with inspiration. The inventive ways in which these women stretched their tiny household budgets are set out in a way they probably never have been before or since, with itemised weekly budgets, comparisions between households (and in one telling instance between husband and wife, when the wife went away for a week!).

Sounds grim? In parts, admittedly, and taken purely on the facts, it is - but carrying us aloft through the toil, misery and tattered skirts are the insightful analysis and lively writing style of the author, who has considerable sympathy for the 'poor, tired creatures' she describes in lovingly human terms.

And, seemingly for the education of those of us who bemoan the modern lack of work/life balance, there are many accounts of how these stay-at-home mothers spent their days. Anyone complaining about spending too much time 'at work' should consider for a moment how they would like to spend their every waking hour in the company of a sewing-needle, a sooty range, a hungry baby, and a giant bar of household soap. Give me the money for a dishwasher any day …

"The children are fair and delicate, and are kept clean by their tired little mother, who plaintively declared that she preferred boys to girls, because you could cut their hair off and keep their heads clean without trouble, and also because their nether garments were less easily torn. When in the visitor's presence the little P.'s have swallowed a hasty dinner, which may consist of a plateful of 'stoo', or perhaps of suet pudding and treacle, taken standing, they never omit to close their eyes and say 'Thang Gord fer me good dinner - good afternoon, Mrs R.' before they go. Mrs P. would call them all back if they did not say that."

A masterpiece, in so many ways.

217pp Persephone softback facsimile edition of a book first published in 1913, with endpapers and matching bookmark taken from a pair of 1912 samplers.



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All Content © Claire Leavey 2014-18

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