Olive Doris Gold (1897-1977): An Introduction – Writing Lives

Olive Doris Gold (1897-1977): An Introduction

Olive Doris Gold was born in the small village, Ringstead, Northamptonshire in 1897. I am interested in Gold because she grew up in a small parish and eventually emigrated to Canada after getting married. I want to explore the cultural differences she experienced with her emigration as well as the lifestyle changes that occurred when she moved from her peaceful childhood to living through the First World War.


Old Ringstead. ()

Olive’s childhood accounts in her autobiography My Life show that she had a very religious upbringing as expected of somebody growing up in a rural turn of century environment. Her eldest brother was a preacher and the whole family were strict Methodists. Olive attended a Baptist church as well as Baptist Sunday school every week, and also went to a Methodist bible class with her friends. Ringstead had no electricity or gas so occupying her time with religious duty would have been one of the only ways to pass the time.

Gold had the traits of a gossip, she writes about the tales of how her town got its name (‘…as fast as workmen put it up in the day time, the devil pulled it down at night,’) and of how a local girl went missing after becoming too intimate with a butcher, leading Olive to live a life of chastity until she married her husband. Besides her religious upbringing, Gold does not get very personal with her childhood and mainly recalls an extremely detailed account of how her village operated, not the people in it. The memoir gets more personal as the war starts, Olive’s first love interest, Billie was killed while at war in France, which is probably the closest the war hit home to her. She laments, ‘…what a waste of young bright lives, and the world is a poorer place.’ (14)

On February 17th 1919, Olive married her husband Bert — an American friend of Billie — and moved to Cardston, Canada with him (his home since the age of 9). Olive’s religion almost got in the way of her marriage with Bert because he was a Mormon while she was a strict Methodist. However he assured her she would be allowed to continue believing in her own faith without having to convert. Olive’s cultural shock began straight away while moving to Canada. She felt like ‘jumping off the train’ at her first encounter with a non-white person, meaning that she must have spent the majority of her life sheltered in her village without much travel to more cosmopolitan places, Olive never talks about leaving her village until her move to Canada.

british immigrantsBritish immigrants in Canada. ()

In Cardston – a small town in Alberta – Olive writes of her life on the farm that her husband owned. She lived peacefully but did not hide her contempt for the ubiquitous Mormon faith in Cardston that was constantly trying to convert her. Eventually her parents and two of her brothers came to Canada in 1920 which made relieved her from some of her homesick sadness. Olive gave birth to a baby girl in the same year but decided that Canada was ‘no place for young married women, especially married to Mormons’ because of some incompetence she faced during labour and her continuing disdain towards Mormonism.

After having a second baby in Canada, Olive decided to move back to England in 1923 due to cultural clashes, her husband joined her two years later. After reading her contempt of the Canadian lifestyle it is relieving to read the tone of her writing on her return, Olivie seemed much happier as she says ‘I once again attend the chapel I loved.’ Life in England had its inevitable hurdles, such as The Great Depression putting her husband out of work. Once World War Two hit, Olive trained to be a medic and provided first aid for anybody who needed it.

In 1948, her husband returned to Canada and Olive carried on leading her maternal life in the village where she secured the position of a matron. What I find interesting is how she never speaks fondly of her husband yet constantly gushes over her children. The autobiography even ends with, ‘What a lovely family I have – two daughters, seven grandchildren and three great grandchildren.’ (36) No mention of her husband. I assume because of the religious and cultural demands of the time a divorce would have been unheard of.

Gold, Olive Doris, ‘My Life’, The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography (Brighton: Harvester, 1987). Vol 2. Number 321.

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