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A Publication from Jennifer Worth SRN SCM

Shadows of the Workhouse


In the 1950s Jennifer Worth was a district midwife in the Docklands of East London, where the aftermath of war revealed stark living conditions. She worked with an order of nursing nuns at a time when most deliveries took place at home, often without the most basic help beyond the skills and care of the midwife.

Jennifer found herself amid real, often dramatic stories of human kindness, brutality, humour and poignancy.

She recounted many of them in Call the Midwife, her widely acclaimed first book in a trilogy.

In Shadows of the Workhouse, she tells us more of the many different characters she met and worked with, and the true, shocking stories she heard about some of the men and women who began their lives in the workhouse.

In 1930, after many damning Royal Commission reports, workhouses were officially closed. But there was nowhere for inmates to go. So workhouses merely changed their names and carried on much as before.

Cruelty broke the spirit of bubbly, brilliant Jane - until kindness healed the wounds... .Frank and Peggy, parted in childhood, met and loved again as adults.... Aristocratic Sister Monica Joan, was 'the naughtiest nun Old soldier Joseph Collett, hid searing memories with stoic endurance - they were just a few whose tales are relived.

Tragedy, humour, courage are all here, told in moving and unforgettable style. It is only yesterday - still within the lifetime of many of us.

'Thank you, Jennifer, for recording the dignity and courage in the lives of ordinary people that would otherwise be lost to history.'

Carl Chinn, Prof. Social History, Birmingham University, on BBC Radio Birmingham, June 2005.

'The tale of Frank and Peggy is one of the most beautiful and moving stories I have ever read.'

Roger Phillips, BBC Radio Liverpool, August 2005. 'Compelling reading for anyone interested in social history.' Doreen Kendall, East London History Society. 'Another superb book!'

Dave Monk, BBC Radio Essex, July 2005.

'Jennifer Worth is a compassionate and perceptive writer.'

Natalie Wheatley, The Woman Writer.

A remarkable book... a compelling mix of social history book and novel. The result is extraordinary, very funny and deeply moving in turns, and impossible to put down. If you only read one book on the history of the East End this year, make it this one.'

John Rennie, East End Life. 'This book needed to be written, because it is so easy to forget the real history of our grandparents. ' Abena Bailey, Hertfordshire Lifestyle.


Published April 2005 by Merton Books.

ISBN 1 872560 13 X

£14.99, + postage

e-mail Merton Books for orders and further details.


(The above text has been taken from supplied publicity material.)