In her book Landscape for a Good Woman, the historian Carolyn Steedman describes her working class childhood in 1950s England. She does so not to tell another story of deprivation or to impart any great wisdom about what it means to be poor but to disrupt the narratives that labor historians and feminists have typically told about such childhoods.
She was illegitimate – the product of her mother’s attempt to persuade her recalcitrant boyfriend to marry her by providing him with children. It was a gamble that failed. Her mother longed for a different life and stared at the women who wore the “New Look” skirts Christian Dior popularized after World War II. She also resented the children that had failed to provide her with the life that she had desired. She incessantly reminded her two daughters about the long hours that she had spent in labor and told them about the things that she would be able to buy if they hadn’t come along. Continue reading