The Writings of "Daisy Nook"

by Hannah Mitchell

Hannah Mitchell ("Daisy Nook") was one of Manchester's best loved council­lors, and an active socialist and feminist in the inter-war years. In between her council work and campaigning for the I.L.P. she wrote a series of Lancashire dialect sketches for the I.L.P.'s paper, Labour's Northern Voices. Two of these, "Women's Work" and "Spring Cleaning" are re-published below. Reference to Hannah Mitchell's work in housing is given in the accompanying article, "Ideology in Bricks and Mortar".

Women's work

Aw seed a notice last week abeawt a meetin' to discuss "Women's Work," an as awve yerd a lot o' talk abeawt women doin' men's work, an' some folk seem to think as there'd be moar work for men if women stopped awhoam aw went to this meetin' to see if aw could yer owt fresh, so as aw could tell th' Northern Voice readers abeawt it if there were owt worth tellin'.

Th' first speaker were a woman, an hoo didn't waste no time apologisin' for it noather. Hoo seemed to think as women had as mich reight to live as men an' as mich reight to work for their livin' at any work they could do as a man had an' as it were no easier bein' unemployed if yo' were a woman an' sometimes it were harder.

Folk seemed to think (hoo sed) if a man were unemployed as they'd ha' to find him summat to play wi' or he'd get i' some mak o' bother, so they gan him a pack o' cards an' some dominoes an' th' Town Hall to play in.

But if a woman were unemployed they thowt as hoo should stop awhoam an' clean th' house an' wesh th' blankets an' such like, An' hoo said mooast folk thowt as women should do nowt but housework, bakin', weshin', mindin' chil­der, an' waiting on th' men, an' aw th' bits o' odd jobs as weren't very well paid an' leave th' better-paid jobs to th' men, an' seemed to think as Providence ud mapped it o' eawt fro' th' beginning, but hoo assed 'em wheer they thowt th' women did th' housework afore they had houses, an' if they thowt ther' were any wesh-house in th' Garden of Eden an' who did th' bakin' an' cookin' afore they fun eawt heaw to mak' a fire.

One o' th' fellys were i' such a hurry to tell her off he could hardly wait till th' chairman said th' meetin' were open for discussion. Then he said hoo were nowt but a chatterbox, an' he geet that excited as th' meetin' sheawted him deawn, so we ne'er fun eawt what he were goin' to say.

So another chap geet up an' said as he were one o' them as thowt women were takkin men's jobs, an' he thowt if men had better wages they could keep their wives awhoam, but he said nowt abeawt their sisters and cousins, so aw reckon he thowt as some other chap should keep them.

Then a youngish chap geet up an' said he thowt as it were th' man's place to go to work an' get th' livin' an' th' woman's to mind th' house, an' he talked a lot o' drivel abeawt "hot dinners" an' "smilin' wives." So aw coam to th' conclu­sion as he wern't married or he'd ha' known as it didn't allus run a hot dinner an' as there weren't much smilin' done on weshin' days.

Then they started poppin' up aw o'er th' place. Some on' em seemed to be short o' summat to think wi', but mooast on 'em were agreed as married women shouldn't work, an' aw were just thinkin' o' movin' as we started an S.P.M.W.W., "Society to Prevent Married Women Working." Aw thowt aw could get a job at organisin' it an' aw could a geet 'em thousands o' members, as aw th' married women aw know 'ud hay' been fain to join it.

But afore aw could get a chance to speyk aw fun eawt as they nobbut meant as married women shouldn't work for wages; at least hoo shouldn't work i' th' factory or th' office or teach i' th' skoos or owt like that.

They said nowt abeawt her doin' weshin' awhoam or takkin a bit of tailorin' or shirt makkin in, nor nowt abeawt heaw hoo could stop awhoam if hoo had a sick husband or one as were eawt o' work or one o' them as were born teighred an' ne'er had time to rest hissel thro' havin' so many pint pots to lift.

An' they seemed to think as stoppin' awhoam meant bein' kept beawt workin' til a middle-aged chap as luked as if he had a bit o' sense geet up an' axed 'em if any on 'em ud like to change places wi' th' woman at home. He said he wondered as mooar women didn't goo mad, an' he said as there weren't many jobs as were harder nor the work in a house, wi' a seventy-hour week, Christmas days an' bank holidays thrown in, an' he said as he hoped an' trusted as th' young women ud kick over th' traces an' get their livin' a bit easier.

Aw said "Hear, hear," to that, an' when aw geet whoam aw thowt as King Solomon were noan so slow after aw, if he had seven hundred wives doin' aw that as he thowt a good wife should do, he met weel ha' time to write proverbs an' money to build temples.

He were wise enoaf, an' he fun a good many fools, an' th' fools han a good many descendants, or we should yer less abeawt women's work.

MARCH 19th 1926

Spring cleaning

"Will you come out with us every night next week, Daisy Nook?" a young felly says to me yesterday.

"Nay," aw said, "aw durnt care so mich for th' pictures, an' every neet is more nor aw can spare."

"We're not going to the pictures," he answered, "we're going to hold some open-air meetings."

"No fear," aw says "it's to cowd for oppen-air meetin's. Nobody wants to stand eawt i' weather like this listen' to a lot o' twaddle abeawt Socialism."

"We're not going to talk twaddle," he says, a bit sharp like, "we're going to do some propaganda. You don't seem to realise the magnitude of the problems which confront us, and the grave responsibility which rest upon us all at this crisis."

"Crisis be hanged," aw said, "it's no worse nor it is every year, an' it's very little responsibility as men take on any time. Th' women can manage as they allus han to do wi' givin' one another a lift wi' carpets an' such like."

"Carpets," he stuttered, "what on earth are you talking about?"

"Why, abeawt th' Spring cleanin', to be sure," aw said. "That's th' only crisis as troubles me at present; aw feel responsible enoof, but there's nowt grave abeawt it. Yo' chaps are so feart of a bit o' wark."

"Nonsense," he snapped, "I'm not talking about a paltry business like clean­ing a house, I'm talking about something that will materially affect the lives of thousands of our fellow human beings. The general election, always a serious event, is complicated this time by the addition of thousands of inexperienced women voters; and when I meet a woman like you whom I have always regarded as an intelligent member of the working class and find that your mind is occupied only by such trivial matters as Spring cleaning, well, I despair, I do indeed.

"Aw cornt help yore troubles," aw said, "but there's nowt so trivial abeawt Spring cleanin', let me tell yo' that, young fellow. When there's six rooms to clean, walls to rub down, floors to scrub, furniture to polish, aw th' blankets an' curtains to wesh (an' th' line post broken deawn), cupboards an' drawers to clean eawt, an' tryin' to scrat a bit o' money together to beigh a new rug or a bit o' oilcloth, it's noan so trivial as yo' met think. An' as for th' general election —well, that's summat like Spring cleanin' to my mind; clearin' ow th' rubbisy owd ideas eawt o' Parliament, polishin' some on 'em up a bit an' sendin' em back wi' as mich new stuff as we can get folk to vote for. An' if complicating things mean makkin' a holy mess on 'em, that's been done lung sin afore women had only votes at ow. Aw con luke after my own mind, it's noan full o' horseracin' an' ofootball shusheaw, an' awm noan goin' spountin' at street corners till awve fet­tled up a bit awhoam. It suits yo' chaps weel enoof to get eawt of a bit a' wark. Aw know yore meetin's. Hauf an hour's speech an' two hours argument

th' public heawse, an' th' canvassin' left for th' women to do i' th' last two weeks. When election day comes yo' ow get a soft job i' th' committee rooms markin' cards wi' red an' blue pencil. It's 'mugs wanted,' an' found an' ow; but

"Dear me, how you do run on," he said, "that's the worst of women, they never can keep to the point. Surely even you can see there is no time to be lost if we are to win the forthcoming election."

"Well," aw said, "if yore goin' to stand at th' street corner talkin' for a month yo'll be a bit hoarse, aw should think, an' folk ull be sick o' th' seet and sound on yo. When awve done my Spring cleanin' me an' a toathree women are goin' canvassin' ow them inexperienced women voters, an' we shall tell them as didn't go to th' Cup Tie on Saturday (something has happened which will materially affect the live of thousands of our fellow human beings) Bowton's won th' Cup."