becoming a self in history, becoming a self in my street
Vera was eighty one when we spoke about her life. She was born in great
poverty because her father was unemployed. She had always loved school but she herself was unable to
pursue her own education and started work when she was fifteen. When she was thirty she was given the
opportunity to attend a second chance women’s college for a year of liberal education. She described this as
bliss. At the age of thirty-seven she became the headmistress of a school where most of the children came from
troubled backgrounds. Many years later, long after she retired, she received a letter from a former pupil. The
woman who wrote was now a social worker. She had come from a family where she had suffered severe abuse.
While attending Vera’s school, she had been taken away from her abusive family and had been put into foster
care, where she had flourished. When she was older, she had looked up her own records and discovered she
owed her rescue to Vera’s involvement in her plight. In a time where such words as abuse were hardly known,
Vera had been aware of a little girl’s suffering and done something to help and rescue her. That little girl, who
was now a woman, wrote to thank Vera. She went on to explain to Vera that her own experiences of abuse
and the help she received had given her the inspiration to do her current job. She and Vera carried on a long
correspondence after this.