Shoulder to Shoulder

1954 Bermondsey mothers’
outing
My love for postcards quietly grows with each passing decade, as the sending and receiving of such diminishes in favour of a quick email or text message, tapped out and fired off electronically with nary an image to accompany it, nor the fabric by which it can be stuck by magnet to the fridge door and raise a smile each time a person reaches for the milk…
The postcard is a dying pleasure and it’s a shame. There’s something delicious about those little pieces of printed card – cheery inky sentiment squeezed into limited space in an ever-shrinking scrawl.

The Corps of Women Drivers and
Grooms formed during the 1914-18 War
to drive the horse-drawn mail vans

One of my favourite used bookshops in town is Simon Baynes, which has a large collection of old postards – some unused, some written on – and I can spend ages meandering through the boxes, looking at them. I never buy any and the chap behind the counter must think me a pain. But the reason I never buy any is because if I started I probably wouldn’t be able to stop. I’ve been here before.

Hackney Workhouse. ‘H’ Block,
the women’s ward, 1902

In 1999, when heavily pregnant with first child, I was inexplicably struck with an obsession with feminism and found myself – that long unbearably hot summer – consuming oodles of feminist literature. There was a certain irony in reading Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch when I was in what most men saw as the sort of condition whereby doors must be opened, seats given up and for God’s sake she’s hormonal, don’t say anything to upset her kindly patronisation.

When exhausted by reading, I took to buying feminist memorabilia online. Ultimately, I ended up with books, postcards, cigarette cards and suchlike before I finally gave it up. I came across my little collection recently, so thought I’d share a few here.

My most treasured card is definitely this one below, with it’s fantastic message in tiny fountain pen script. Sent from the Isle of Man to an address in Oldham, and dated 6 August 1909, it reads:

My dear Mr B, 
We arrived in good condition after a splendid crossing. Today has been glorious, the first summer day, so the natives tell us. We attended a suffragist meeting this morning and you will be surprised to hear that I made a few remarks, but they were to a man who kept interrupting with inane remarks. We have been down to the Port tonight and seen the women cleaning and packing fish. This is something that has been started since we were here last year. We have a fine room, overlooking bay, port and promenade. Hoping you are having better weather and all keeping fit. Yours in ….

Isn’t that wonderful?

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