The Postmistress Mini Project 2016

The Post Mistress mini project proved again how popular mini projects are with our members, and over 90 completed Post Mistress reports were received and are available to view in the members’ pages.

The first Newsletter article appeared in the February 2016 Newsletter published only a month after the project started! Our author’s opening paragraph started off “I had just enjoyed a day off the lead and was wondering what to do next when a letter arrived from FACHRS inviting me to renew my subscription and to research Emily Ann Bettesworth for the Postmistresses Project. For a moment I pondered: could the smart option be to ignore both, thus freeing some money and time? Suffice it to say that by 1am I had discovered a much smarter option and the beginnings of a very interesting trail. “ Want to know about the outcomes of the ‘interesting trail’ then you can read the article in Volume 17 No 1 of the FACHRS Newsletter in the Members’ pages.

This article was followed by others which appear in the remaining Newsletters of 2016 and those of 2017, all available in the Members’ pages. Indeed, one of them ‘Annie Berry – part of a Post Office family’ won the 2017 Paul Newton Taylor Award. (The Paul Newton Taylor Award, is an annual award, given to the winner as voted for by members, from a list of eligible articles in the three preceding newsletters).

This mini project while looking into the life and times of the Post Mistress and the place or places where she worked, also sought to answer the following: Is the Post Mistress that the member researched representative of the world of women’s work described in the following quotes?

“Most of the women who were in business on their own account were born into a culture of small enterprise, with family situations that increased their chances of success in a competitive sector and a petite bourgeois preoccupation with maintaining independence on the basis of small capital. Theirs was a social world composed of shopkeepers and travelling salesman, skilled artisans such as tailors, as well as clerks and teachers. Their female relatives were shopkeepers, lodging house-keepers and also, increasingly, teachers ..” (Nenadic 2007 p275/6)

“One feature of the changing nature of women’s work that is generally agreed upon is the importance of tertiary employment towards the end of the nineteenth century…. Much greater gains were made in lower status ‘white blouse’ employment: as shop assistants, clerks, elementary schoolteachers and nurses. There were almost half a million female shop assistants in England and Wales by 1914, while by the same date nearly three-quarters of all elementary teachers were women. Both the typewriter and the telephone exchange quickly became the province of women towards the end of the nineteenth century, and the Post Office provided unprecedented opportunities for single, middle-class women to gain respectable employment, albeit with inferior status, prospects and pay than those achieved by men.” (Goose 2007 p13)

Nenadic S (2007) “Gender and the rhetoric of business success: the impact on women entrepreneurs and the ‘new woman’ in later nineteenth century Edinburgh” in Goose N (ed), Women’s Work in Industrial England Regional and Local Perspectives, Hatfield, Hertfordshire: Local Population Studies.

Goose N (2007) “Working Women in Industrial England” in Goose N (ed), Women’s Work in Industrial England Regional and Local Perspectives, Hatfield, Hertfordshire: Local Population Studies.

The final analysis is still to being worked on. It is hoped it will be completed and available in 2021.

Brita Wood
Post Mistress Mini Project Co-ordinator
January 2021