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Jill Norris: An Appreciation

Ruth & Eddie Frow, on behalf of the Committee
issue number: : 
11
1985

The North West Labour History Group has suffered a sad loss with the death in a car accident of Jill Norris. Jill brought to the meetings a wide ranging knowledge which will be greatly missed. She was active in many aspects of labour history and to each she brought the accumulated and inter-related experience of them all.

With Jill Liddington she raised oral history to new heights when they interviewed the children of women who had been active suffragists in the North West textile districts. They used the oral evidence from the interviews in the text of their book, ONE HAND TIED BEHIND US integrating it into the narrative so that instead of being separate quotes, it became a fascinating part of the story as it unfolded.

Jill was herself part of the living history of the adult literacy campaign which has been in operation with some success over the past ten years. She brought it to her experience as a teacher in both primary and secondary schools and her understanding and humanity towards those in greatest need of her skills.

In the work of the Labour History Group, Jill played a full part. She was active in the Committee which organised the Tolpuddle Martyrs event in 1984. She was a familiar figure at History Workshops always helping to keep the feminist historians from declaring a separate autonomous republic and integrating them into the wider field.

Possibly it was as a feminist that Jill made her greatest contribution. She always brought chauvinists gently to the reality that women’s part in history has been substantial but obscured. Without rancour, she was able to point to the very real sins of omission and commission with which history has come to us and she corrected them with as good humour which left no bitterness.

In recent years, since moving to Macclesfield, Jill has concentrated her tremendous energy and enthusiasm in first establishing the need for a silk museum, and this year, in helping to establish it. She was determined to build a suitable library for the museum and it is fitting that her Macclesfield friends and associates have taken the decision to carry out that project and establish a JILL NORRIS LIBRARY in the museum.

Jill’s extensive knowledge was never obtrusive. She carried it in the most modest manner only offering it when she felt it would be of assistance in the discussion. As a committee member she was a fund of experience and information always offered with a sincerity and diffidence which belied its value.

But we shall miss her most as the energetic, bringer of good humour and good sense to our meetings. Her bubbling and effervescent enthusiasm raised our hopes and extended our sights. Her death leaves a large gap in our Committee and because we feel it so deeply we can appreciate how much more she will be missed by Chris Trent, Jill’s husband, and their two young daughters, Ruth and Catherine. To them and to her parents, we offer our sincere sympathy.