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  • In 1985 my mother was interviewed for a feminist oral history project.

    I started school when I was five in 1926. I remember my mother putting on my long black stockings. I reached the top class when I was ten and asked to go to Deal Street School that had a very good drama section.

    I also learned upholstery, leather work, and dressmaking.

    There was a great hall with a very high glass roof and the wall in front of the stage had brilliantly coloured stained glass windows. On the stage was a chair made of mahogany similar to a magistrates chair in court, and there sat famous people when they came to our prize giving days.

    The hall had many archways that lead to doors. There was a gallery at the back of the hall; the first floor gallery was for the boys’ choir and the second floor gallery was for the girls’ choir.

    We had dancing and PI displays.

    One year I had to go from the girls’s choir, to the PI display , back to the choir and then to the stage to get my prize.

    We had housekeeping and cookery classes. The food we cooked was given to the poor children who could not afford school dinners.

    We had history, art, dressmaking and drama lessons. Each year the school put on a Shakespeare production. I was given the part of Antonio in the Merchant of Venice. I am very grateful to have learned so much about Shakespeare. I still love his plays.

    Our art teacher painted scenery for the plays.

    In 1930, when I was fourteen, I was allowed to go to a City Day Continuation School. Most children left school at fourteen in those days but I was allowed to continue. I learned shorthand typing, English and book keeping (which I enjoyed), history and office management.

    When I left school in 1931, during the bad period, I couldn’t find a job. I was very upset. I had passed the book keeping exam, but all the companies I applied to told me they did not want a junior working for them. So me and my older sister, who had qualified as a fashion designer, were told by our father to start our own dressmaking business, and we had to work from home. It was fashionable to wear heavily embroidered blouses at the time; so I spent hours embroidering.

    I found it very boring.
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