May Owen (b.1896): Politics and Protest – Writing Lives

May Owen (b.1896): Politics and Protest

May Owen did not involve herself with politics, neither did she join in on any protests that happened in her youth or adulthood. This may be down to Owen believing that ‘hard work hurts no one. There is philosophy of life, which enables one to rise above it. That is why we are failing.’ (p.10). These strong remarks of Owen’s opinion of political protests are that they were futile, as she believed that they should have carried on the hard work no matter what. She even continues her statement by blaming political movements for the state of the country at the time of her writing her autobiographical letter.french-revolution_6

The only time that Owen shows sympathy to any sort of protest is when she struggled to find a domestic service position and she notes that she ‘can see why the French Revolution took place’ (p.9). However Owen persevered with her search for a job keeping her attitude on the political movement and did not engage herself with any of the groups.

Owen could not escape the politics and protest though and does mention in her letter that during her time living in Yorkshire, the men in the colliery village who ‘came home black and dirty’ (p.4) after work, went on ‘a short strike at the pit just afteCollieryr [they] arrived.’ (p.5) This is the only memory that Owen reflects on about working class strikes or political movements, she could have been witness to more but it is unknown. ‘If we will not admit the Working- men into the great school of Public Life, we leave them to the free exercise of their instincts and their passions: if we will not teach them political wisdom, they will teach us political disaster’ (MP during debates, 1866-7).

Eventually the working class men did show the government political disaster with strikes and movements up and down the country just like or even worse and a longer struggle than the strike that Owen saw as a young girl.


May, Owen. Autobiographical Letter. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:576

MP (unknown) during the debates over enfranchisement of working men, 1866-7


French Revolution –

Coal Miners –

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