This is an absolute treasure. If by divine intervention, a collection of papers from a society of women known as the Cooperative Correspondence Club (CCC) were discovered by author Jenna Bailey while doing research at the University of Sussex. Spanning much of the 20th Century, these papers tell the story of women living all across the United Kingdom who wrote of their lives, beliefs, hopes and struggles in a magazine, compiled and circulated monthly amongst its members.
Membership was restricted to mothers only, despite motherhood not being the predominant subject matter of the magazine, and no new member was admitted who could not bring something ‘new’ to the content. The magazine was strictly confidential and members wrote under a pseudonym, so as to ensure privacy if a non-member was to ever get their hands on the magazine.
Initially as a response to the loneliness many women felt as wives and mothers living in isolated areas it eventually became a deep friendship network where they could express themselves and receive advice and support like nowhere else. They saw each other through the loss of children, divorce, the war, the depression and an array of other situations. The women were varied in social status, wealth, age and character which gave the women a taste of ‘how the other side lives’ and bought perspective and experience to many of their challenges. The magazine gave hope, comfort and stimulus to extremely smart and educated women who often struggled with their role in the home. They wrote about anything and everything. Some of my favourites include, the theory of how your enjoyment of sex while you are conceiving effects whether you have a boy or girl, the comments on current trends in raising children and the witty and hilarious account of a near murder by one of the members.
Jenna Bailey knew she struck gold when she found the papers of the CCC. Though many had been destroyed by time, the papers she did find formed the foundation of this book. From there she researched the members and their families who filled in the gaps. A few of the members of the CCC were still living and recounted their motivations for writing and what the magazine meant to them while their families spoke of this secret book their mothers treasured and their desire to sneak a peek. From Jenna’s research the history of the members were gathered and offers a great insight into the women.
Women and history is the perfect combination for me. I love reading anything that highlights the lives of women, particularly in times and places I haven’t lived. This book takes you right back in time. Through the often general and common musings of their lives, these women bring to us what it was to live in a time we will never know. However the most magical element for me was just how much we have in common. It seems that joy, heartache, struggle and love are universal concepts, it’s just the backdrop that changes. I feel that each of us could sweep across the generations and find ourselves quite at home discussing life with the CCC, corset and all.
Rating; 5 Stars