Nottingham Oral History Project: interview. Sample containing about 9389 words speech recorded in leisure context

7 speakers recorded by respondent number C146

PS25A X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
FXXPS000 X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
FXXPS001 X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
FXXPS002 X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
FXXPS003 X u (No name, age unknown) unspecified
FXXPSUNK (respondent W0000) X u (Unknown speaker, age unknown) other
FXXPSUGP (respondent W000M) X u (Group of unknown speakers, age unknown) other

1 recordings

  1. Tape 094402 recorded on unknown date. LocationNottinghamshire: Nottingham () Activity: Oral history project interview Debate

Undivided text

Unknown speaker (FXXPSUNK) [1] You told me that when you went to work for was the first time you came across abortion really in .
(PS25A) [2] Yes it was yes .
(FXXPS003) [3] What was your experience there?
(PS25A) [4] Er well whe er when I first went to I'd already lost two children and er the girls knew that I worked with the t last two children.
[5] And I became pregnant again and they were falling over themselves to do an abortion for me.
[6] I mean there were several people but m the surprising was the person in charge of of the work girls you see.
[7] She offered to do one and I I was shocked because we wer we wanted a baby you see, we wanted the baby.
[8] They couldn't understand that.
[9] Most of the husbands were in the Forces and mine was at home and er any way er before I left two two different women had had babies and had abortions and died.
[10] One was er she'd be about thirty six the first one, and er she didn't come to work one day and er the girl, in the afternoon the girl c , her daughter, she was fifteen, er she came to speak to me and she said er, Oh, I said, Hello, [...] how's your mum [...] , is she poorly?
[11] She said, She's dead.
[12] And she'd had an abortion the night before and she'd died that day on the Monday.
[13] She'd had an abortion on the Sunday and she'd died on the Monday.
[14] Course I di I didn't get to know much else but it was obvious you see, she'd been going out with a young man, her husband was in the Forces and er she'd tried to get rid of it.
[15] She died.
[16] And er the same thing happened about another one.
[17] Er this was very surprising as well.
[18] This person had got one son about twelve, and her husband was in the Forces as well.
[19] And er she was missing, and one day I saw her sister-in-law and I said, Where, how is she?
[20] Wh Is she ill or what?
[21] She says, I'm afraid she's dead.
[22] She died through an a backstreet abortion you see.
[23] See you couldn't go and have an a an a illegal a legal abortion in those days, it was all backstreet abortions.
[24] And the thing that was said a lot was a Slippery Elm stick, well I still don't really know what it was but er it was a kind of a s , bark of the Slippery Elms, a Slippery Elm bark or something and they sharpened it to a point and inserted that into the womb you see and it was done, and then of course I heard a lot about gin, sitting in a hot bath with gin.
[25] I mean really I er it shook me because I was extremely naive, I'd had two children but I was very very naive in those days.
[26] And er people was of often off for day or two, I mean really nice people, they weren't they weren't bad people, they were really nice people but they it was nature you see.
[27] Their husbands were away and they didn't know if they'd come back or not and er, one girl er th this wasn't at the , near where I used to live at .
[28] She became pregnant, it was at the ending of the War, when the War was ending you know.
[29] And er she'd tried to get rid of it and she couldn't, so she found out her husband was coming home, he was actually in the boat coming back and she didn't know what to do.
[30] In the end she sent him a telegram to explain you know that she was pregnant with a another man.
[31] About three days after she had er the abortion started to work and she lost the baby.
[32] He came back but he forgave her.
[33] He was ver , you know he was really nice about it.
[34] He said, Well er, you know, it's just that, I mean with nature being what it is you see.
[35] She wasn't a bad wife or anything like that, it was just that she'd met this man at work, where she worked, they both worked at a dry cleaning place.
[36] And er but of course she did lose the baby.
[37] She'd been trying to get rid of it and then suddenly it worked and she lost the baby.
(FXXPS003) [38] So most of the people who were having abortions were people who were having a child by some other man?
(PS25A) [39] Oh yeah.
[40] Yes.
(FXXPS003) [41] I wonder I was wondering whether some people were having abortion because they perhaps already had too many children?
(PS25A) [42] Well I [sigh] I di I didn't kno I never met anybody i in in that category.
[43] Er er you see it was all, with me it was when I, at the time I went to work and er I had to leave work to have my baby you see.
[44] And it and this, the one, the last one was just after I left so I didn't know her, I knew her to look at but I didn't know her personally.
[45] And er th they were all people whose husbands were in the Forces fighting
(FXXPS003) [46] Mm.
(PS25A) [47] you know it was terr terrible times
(FXXPS003) [48] Mhm.
(PS25A) [49] really.
(FXXPS003) [50] And as you said it seemed to be erm the norm that people assumed that if you were pregnant that you didn't want to be and therefore
(PS25A) [51] Yeah, yeah, yes.
(FXXPS003) [52] you would be looking for an abortion so people ,
(PS25A) [53] Yeah.
(FXXPS003) [54] it doesn't sound as if people had much inhibitions about coming up to you and asking you .
(PS25A) [55] N no , well see what happened to me, I mean this person came and she said er, Er if you like I'll do it for you.
[56] I said, Do what?
[57] She said, I I'll abort your baby for you.
[58] She said, I've done lots, she said.
[59] Er you'll be alright, you'll be safe.
[60] Couldn't believe it, you just couldn't believe what you was hearing, you know.
[61] Cos I so, we so desperately wanted a baby.
[62] I mean losing two, our last one a mo a month old and one at er two month old.
[63] And losing two like that, I still wanted a baby.
[64] And er of course I was lucky the next time see.
[65] But I just couldn't believe that people would be willing to do ... do that kind of thing, you know.
(FXXPS003) [66] Was there just one lady who used to do the abortions at er or lots of different people ?
(PS25A) [67] Oh no, oh I think there was quite a few.
[68] I mean she was just in our department you see.
[69] Er you see you sort of lived in one li small environment where, er with us it was er a certain room.
[70] We examined these magazines for shells, we examined them to see if they were perfect.
[71] But there was big, it was a huge place, you know , and there were a lot of women that did really heavy men's work, we weren't doing men's work.
[72] We were doing what women could could do anytime, you know.
[73] But in the er in the big shops where women did really heavy work and and really mixed with the men.
[74] There was quite a lot of it went on.
[75] You used to hear about it you know.
[76] I I could never I never knew anybody personally because er you know you just used to go work and then go home and that was it.
[77] I was away from work.
[78] Er you know you didn't sort of erm, you didn't mix a lot, you know really.
[79] Everybody had their own problems and I had mine with losing two the two babies, I had mine wondering if I'd lose another you see and that that was my particular worry at the time.
(FXXPS003) [80] And tell me about the lady who did abortions, erm, did you know very much about what sort of people they were?
(PS25A) [81] Erm
(FXXPS003) [82] The one in particular in your department [...] .
(PS25A) [83] The one in our department.
[84] Erm well she was quite a very well spoken presentable person, you know.
[85] But she'd got this little bit of ... oh I don't know, a little bit of coarseness about her.
[86] You know.
[87] Er ... just that little bit th that you felt, that I wasn't, er you could imagine her doing it, you know.
[88] I mean to me the boss of of our bench, there was probably twenty people on the bench, to me the boss of that it wasn't what you call a particularly good job but she'd always worked at the and of course when when went on War work er th those that were still there they got the better jobs you see, to organize us that hadn't been, worked there before.
[89] And I wouldn't I I heard of a s very sleazy woman er near where I used to live, er I never met her, but it was all hearsay how many abortions she did.
[90] You know she's er she lived in a very tiny house at at .
[91] I never met her and it was just talk in the shops, the corner shops were in those days were the gossip places, you know.
[92] And it w not like today the supermarket, every corner shop had it's own particular news of the world you know and my mother-in-law used to go down and she used to come up and tell me all these things about the things that were going on.
[93] She was the first to get to get to know about the lady whose husband was coming back from the Forces.
[94] She was the first to get to know about that you see and she'd come round and tell me.
[95] Because she lived against this woman.
(FXXPS003) [96] Do you think that the ladies who did abortions did it mainly for money, or wer was it sort of concern for [...] ?
(PS25A) [97] Er maybe some, I think quite a few did it for money because money was short in, really.
[98] But I think a lot of them were genuinely concerned, as in my case I think this person was genuinely worried about me because I'd had, it was my third child and I I do think she was er worried about me because er you know you don't want to keep having babies and losing them but I wasn't worried about, I was worried about myself, to say I wasn't worried that's stupid, but er we just hoped and hoped and kept hoping.
[99] No I think sh I think she was genuinely concerned.
[100] She'd she certainly didn't want the money cos she'd got, her husband was a er you know she had er money from her husband and she had good wages at the you see with her being in charge er she had quite good wages.
[101] But I you know
(FXXPS003) [102] [...] how much they charged for abortions, you've no idea ?
(PS25A) [103] No , no I haven't any idea at all about that.
[104] I never I never got too familiar to that extent you know.
[105] Probably a lot of people could tell you, you know.
[106] I I couldn't tell you that.
[107] But she she said, You'll be alright, you'll be alright, I'll do it.
[108] You know.
[109] Quite erm
(FXXPS003) [110] And how did she go about abortions, do you know?
(PS25A) [111] Well ... the only thing I've heard that she did was this, sounds stupid, Slippery Elm stick.
[112] I mean it it sounds stupid, but a person I knew, she was about as stupid as i was as naive as I was, because er she was pregnant, her husband wasn't away but she'd got how many, five, four children, she'd lost three children and she'd got, then she had four, and then she found herself pregnant again.
[113] And er half heatedly she decided she ought, she couldn't have any more children you know she'd, I don't think it was money so much that she thought she'd got enough and somebody told her about this Slippery Elm, well you could get a Slippery Elm drink, you know you know these milky foods if you've got a poor tummy, that that can, er [laughing] she bought a tin of this Slippery Elm drink, and she drunk gallons of it and it was doing her good [laugh] and she thought er she thought it wouldn't, she'd gone wrong you see [] .
[114] It was the Slippery Elm bark I think that's what it was called.
[115] And the people used to sharpen it to a point, why the Slippery Elm I don't know, I've often wondered about it really, but his person I'm telling you about she she was delivered of a good healthy boy and everything was alright.
[116] Yes she's somebody I knew very very well indeed.
[117] And er every time he was, the boy was ill after she said, That's through me taking that Slippery Elm that, that, I've done it.
[118] [laugh] She was very, she didn't really want to get rid of the baby, not really, I think I think perhaps somebody had put the idea into her head you've got enough children you shouldn't have any more.
[119] But I think she was like me she didn't really want to get rid of her baby.
[120] But er he did the boy did suffer with a bit of stomach trouble in later life and she always blamed herself.
[121] But I've never really known about the Slippery Elm stick,wh , er didn't get to the bottom of it, you know, what it was.
(FXXPS003) [122] How did the other women feel about women who had abortions at the, at ?
(PS25A) [123] Well there were one or two that was a bit, got on their high horse, you know and say, It's disgusting and that, but er I never did because er in cases like that I think there but for the grace of God, you know I I wouldn't condemn people, in those, we were living in very abnormal times you see.
[124] I mean people were dying, men were dying, my brother died, he got killed in the War,pe every day you went to work and somebody would tell you, So and so's died, you remember so and so, he's died.
[125] And we were living in very a abnormal times, and women were snatching at a little bit of happiness they could get, you know this is what it was.
[126] But they were condemned by some people, there al there's always condemners, aren't there really.
(FXXPS003) [127] Mm.
(PS25A) [128] But I I wouldn't er if I hear of a girl getting pregnant er you know now now it's a very common thing I know, but sometimes I feel really sorry for the girls because it's tying yourself fifteen, sixteen tying yourself down to children.
[129] And I so desperately wanted children.
[130] [laugh] But er there there were there were some pe our, our, on the bench that we we had a really, cross section on the bench that I worked on, there were very, women, one woman she'd never been to work in her life.
[131] And she liked the idea of going to work you see, she'd she'd got a family, she'd be about oh she was about ten years older than I was and erm she looked out of place you know.
[132] I I became a great friend of hers actually, er she looked out of place on the bench.
[133] She spoke very nicely and she was a very nice person but she was a little bit er [whispering] you know, It's disgusting, she used to say.
[134] It isn't right you know, it's disgusting [] .
[135] But she'd got no problems, her husband was at home and er her little world was okay you see.
[136] But I mean people lived in those days you know I mean , you know where the is don't you?
[137] Well a lot of those people lived round there and they were hovels.
[138] Th they were really hovels, I mean, [laugh] you know when I hear people talking about the good comradeship and that.
[139] There was to a certain extent but some of the homes were hovels.
[140] Back to back.
[141] I mean you you, I went to one one person's house, and er you went in the door in the terrace there there was a room.
[142] Erm that was the one room.
[143] There was a tap in the room, there was just one room, then one room there and one room there.
(FXXPS003) [144] Mm.
(PS25A) [145] Er where would with er would've been a front room that was another house.
[146] You see they were back to back.
(FXXPS003) [147] Yes.
(PS25A) [148] And it it was, I mean I was brought up in the country and it, I found it really shocking that people had to live like that, you know.
[149] I mean we weren't er,m my dad was a miner.
[150] We we we lived but we had a comfortable home, and I er I thought it was a lovely home actually.
[151] Somebody once said we were, erm, These are slums.
[152] Oh I was furious, I was very proud of my home, you know, I thought it, my home was lovely.
[153] I I've always been that way inclined, I mean my dad was er he he was a miner, he was a lovely dad, he was lovely man.
[154] My mum my mum was the best mum ever.
[155] [laugh] My daughter said I'm partisan.
[156] My my middle daughter she said, Very partisan mum.
[157] No, I said, I'm not, but I've never been ashamed of er of er of my parents and my background.
[158] I think you can always learn a lot from your background and your parents.
(FXXPS003) [159] Ca can you tell me another thing about the abortions, do you know erm if, of course abortion was illegal then, do you
(PS25A) [160] Oh yes.
(FXXPS003) [161] know if the police ever took any action, particularly about these ladies who died, did you hear
(PS25A) [162] Erm.
(FXXPS003) [163] anything?
(PS25A) [164] No, no actually I don't.
[165] I don't know.
[166] And I was never one really to ask questions, I I daren't ask questions, I used, people told me things, that was it.
[167] But I think the the where we lived er er there was this woman that was well known for doing, and she lived in a very tiny house.
[168] Er I think she was in trouble with the police.
[169] Er I can remember the the news going around that er the police had been to visit, it was actually it was the next street to where I lived.
[170] And er she was in trouble but I didn't know the outcome, er you know.
[171] I think I was a little bit airy-fairy really, I used to live in a world of me own, [...] I didn't, I wasn't terribly interested you know.
[172] If people told me that was all well and good but if they didn't, but I did hear about this erm er she did the operation on the girl who er who couldn't get rid of her baby, and then it, she lo she sent she sent a telegram to her husband or a letter er it took a long while to come from the Far East, he was in the Far East.
[173] And it took a long while for the letters to get there but he knew while he was on the boat that his wife was pregnant and er when he got here, she'd it'd been aborted.
[174] It was a late abortion it didn't work straight away, it m probably the baby died but it didn't come away from her you see and er, it was a shame, but she oh she was called a very bad woman you know because her husband was fighting for his country and and er you know.
[175] But er he he came back and they had er they had two more children actually.
[176] Cos they they didn't live far from me, I did know her by sight.
(FXXPS003) [177] Can you tell me then another side of this problem of abortion during the War is erm the problem of contraception then, erm I wonder do you think that people weren't aware of facilities for contraception then during the War?
(PS25A) [178] Well
(FXXPS003) [179] Or wh what was happening?
(PS25A) [180] Well I think a lot of it was erm ... ignorance.
[181] I mean I there was a thing I don't know if anybody's told Pessaries, Doctor Pessaries, that you could use.
[182] I used them and they worked for me.
[183] I I was very keen er when I had my daughter erm I was quite happy about it and I I I used them, then after three years I didn't use them.
[184] But they worked for me.
[185] But you see you've got to know what you're doing, you've got to really look after yourself.
[186] I mean I, it's no good me husbands to look af , I I this is my second husband but er with my first husband er I I sort of erm if it's [laugh] been left to him, God bless him, he's dead now but if it'd been left to him I'd have had a houseful of children you know.
[187] So I had to look after myself so I I had one and then I had the other one, just stop at two.
[188] Er but I used to tell people and they you know people near me that had a lot of children and er they'd moan and groan about it, I heard one woman say erm, she'd had quite a few children and I I'd been in hospital and I said er, er a certain person that'd had a baby had lost it.
[189] She said, Ooh she's one of the lucky ones, she said, I couldn't get rid of mine.
[190] And now that was the attitude that that that they they had that er a lot of them, not not everybody of course that just and she had this attitude, erm anybody that had lost their baby were lucky, you see.
[191] And she'd I think she had about eight, over over a period of years you know.
[192] And think this woman that had lost her baby she said, she's one of the lucky so and so's you know she lost hers, I couldn't get rid of mine.
[193] She'd tried and she she didn't, her husband was at home he wasn't in the Forces but th this was the attitude.
(FXXPS003) [194] Would people go to their doctors to ask for contraceptive advice ?
(PS25A) [195] Oh don't think so, don't think they'd dare.
[196] I daren't have done if I hadn't er oh oh I know once my my doctor came to see me about something and there was erm a lot of people used to use er some pills oh what were they called, little round pills, when at the monthly periods they used to use them, oh Doctor Johnson's, Doctor somebody's pills, now they would have the effect of er your period you would see more than you usually did.
[197] But I remember I'd got a box on my mantlepiece erm not only was I using the pessaries but I was also taking these when the period was due.
[198] And erm I mean they were quite they wouldn't they wouldn't get rid of a baby, but a lot of people thought they would.
[199] I mean my doctor saw them, he said, What you taking these for?
[200] I said, Well I take them cos I have a lot, I used to have an awful lot of pain every month, I did, and it i this used to prevent the pain.
[201] And er he said, You can ask me for anything, cos he was a strong Catholic you see and he wouldn't he didn't believe in anything to do with birth control.
[202] Erm i if you want anything to stop the pain I'll give it you.
[203] Er so I said, Alright I'll stop taking them which I didn't anyway, but a lot of people used to took them but some used to take er when it when the periods were due they'd take about half a box, I mean instead of taking two, er two one day and two the next they'd take about half a box.
[204] Well I think you know they could've killed themselves taking all that now, I forget forget what they were called.
[205] They were black round like little tiny erm cashews you know, little black thing, just can't remember the name of them now.
[206] They were very well known.
[207] You used to buy them from the chemist.
(FXXPS003) [208] Yes so you, was there any difficulty or embarrassment about getting these things for the pessaries and the pills from the chemist?
(PS25A) [209] Well I I was never embarrassed at getting the pessaries, I used to and ask for them.
[210] And I never found any embarrassment there because there was I always saw the wom woman, you could always see a woman chemist.
[211] I always saw the woman and there was, she knew me and er there was no problem.
[212] Also the er the erm these Doctor something pills er she advised me to take them because of these pains I had and er but a lot of people thought they wold work wonders you know.
[213] That, if there's any baby there it'll get rid of it but I don't think it ever would.
[214] I don't think it was strong enough for anything like that.
(FXXPS003) [215] Mm.
[216] I hear that there was a er family planning clinic in in the
(PS25A) [217] Mm.
(FXXPS003) [218] thirties erm but I don't know a lot about it.
[219] I wondered if you ever heard of such a thing?
(PS25A) [220] Well not in the thirties of course but after the War there was one because I er, ah well this, no, this was much later, much much much, because I married my second husband and erm I had two children fairly quick.
[221] Er we were married three years, no children and I began to get desperate again and an anyway along came the first then came the second.
[222] And that was enough, we decided that was enough.
[223] So I went to the birth control clinic on, either Street or Street it was, I can't remember which.
[224] Do you know which it was?
(FXXPS003) [225] Well I know it was at Street at one time.
[226] Yes.
(PS25A) [227] Yes that'd be it.
[228] Yes that would be it.
[229] And it was a Doctor , er she was in charge ,
(FXXPS003) [230] That's the name, yes.
(PS25A) [231] she was lovely.
[232] She was my doctor at the time, she was she was oh she was a grand person was Doctor .
[233] And er very kind, very gentle.
[234] And I I went but it was so embarrassing it made me ill.
[235] It was very very embarrassing this, what you went through you know and all this performance.
[236] [laugh] You know.
[237] And I I er anyway it did make me ill,its it made me bleed.
[238] Er
(FXXPS003) [239] With internal examinations and
(PS25A) [240] Yes.
(FXXPS003) [241] things like that?
(PS25A) [242] Yes, when I got home at night I I was er I had to I was sent to the hospital I was bleeding.
[243] And erm you know ... it was pretty bad.
[244] And so I wouldn't use it, I wouldn't use the so we er my husband just had to [laughing] take precautions [] and that was it.
(FXXPS003) [245] Yes, so they had did have a variety of different things you you could er be
(PS25A) [246] Oh yes.
(FXXPS003) [247] fitted with then ?
(PS25A) [248] Yes I heard of a lot of things, the coil, er my my sister had the coil and erm and of course the cap which which it what I had.
[249] And different creams and that kind of thing, but er oh it was you know not very nice.
[250] I was [laughing] messy and [] [laugh] I've always said that [break in recording]
(PS25A) [251] [...] severe looking nurses you know and you felt a bit embarrassed.
(FXXPS003) [252] Yes.
[253] Was it a busy place when you went there?
(PS25A) [254] Oh when I went yes, there was a lot there, quite a lot there.
(FXXPS003) [255] This would have been what in the late forties or fifties, would this be?
(PS25A) [256] Th yes well my, oh no, it was in f the early fifties actually.
(FXXPS003) [257] [whispering] Ah yes. []
(PS25A) [258] Yes.
[259] My two, these two [...] my last two girls were born in the fifties yes.
[260] Yes in, when when the youngest one, cos I had a very bad confinement over the youngest one, and er Doctor sa said, he said, he asked, You don't want any more, [...] my doctor that was then, not Doctor because I was I wasn't under Doctor then.
[261] And she said, You don't want to have any more do you?
[262] Er I said, No, and she gave me a letter to take down there you see.
[263] Erm. [break in recording]
(FXXPS003) [264] You told me that you had an abortion in the nineteen thirties.
(FXXPS000) [265] That's right.
(FXXPS003) [266] Can you tell me how this all came about?
(FXXPS000) [267] Well my husband was out o on strike and I'd erm got two babies, a year and ten months, and I felt that I had to go and get a job and I was desperate so I'd heard people talking about these things as they did so I thought well I've got to do something.
[268] And er what I did I got everything, you know the , I don't think it was , and some warm water and I saw that my hands was well clean and I'd got some very nice little silver spoons, only small ones.
[269] And er I er penetrated, it took two or three days in the womb with this spoon, and the heard something go pop.
[270] And of course not long after that erm I was took ill and er I er had to have the doctor and they sent me to hospital.
[271] I can mention Mister , Doctor, he's Sir , John .
[272] Er he attended to me and I shouldn't have done but I looked at my notes at th bottom of the bed one day and it said, Interference denied.
[273] And of course I had denied cos nobody, I think he said, Has someone interfered with you?
[274] Nobody had, I'd done it myself, you see and I didn't want to know and er I didn't want anybody to know you see but er, he was marvellous I know and I know there was something else tiny came away it'd only be about ... six or eight weeks but it was, I think anyway what was lost was found and I was in hospital for about fourteen days.
[275] And er that's how I performed the, but I kept it to myself all these years you know and never told anybody what I'd done because I think it was terrible.
[276] Cos I ...
(FXXPS003) [277] How did you know how to go about it?
(PS25A) [278] Well when you're a waitress and you mix you know with all sorts and you hear different people talking and what they did and what they didn't do you now and some had Doctor pills at that time in the nineteen thirties and some used the Indian bark.
[279] Er what was there?
[280] Some pink pills or something but there was all sorts you know hat they used to say put your feet in hot in water, mustard and er fall down the stairs or go on a bus, they used to tell you all sorts of things you know to, and er anyway that's what happened to me.
[281] But thank goodness it didn't do me no permanent harm.
[282] B [break in recording]
(FXXPS001) [283] Er I did have a child for in nineteen forty eight.
[284] I did have c a hysterectomy but er because there was a l malignant growth, so whether in you know I'd done anything all those years and yet it didn't affect, you know it makes you wonder doesn't it?
(FXXPS003) [285] Well it makes you wonder but I should think [...]
(FXXPS001) [286] And ten when you lose a lovely girl you wonder still, you know why you, if that was punishment.
[287] I didn't lose her till she was over twenty but ... So but I think it was desperation because if I'd had money I should've had a house full of children because I loved them, you see, I've always loved children.
[288] So
(FXXPS003) [289] Do you know if this was something that was happening to a lot of people, at that sort of time in nineteen thirties ?
(FXXPS001) [290] Oh yes, yes, yes but erm ... on the radio prog programme I heard someone say there was every street corner these women but they weren't, I don't think there was, I think it was you know, there were a lot of women that used to do it illegal.
[291] And er they used to get them to take these pills they said and they used to drink a bottle of gin, keep drinking gin.
[292] Oh dear I couldn't of that [laugh] .
[293] No.
(FXXPS003) [294] Did you think of going to anybody like that before you decided to do it yourself
(FXXPS001) [295] No I wouldn't let anybody else touch me person.
[296] I was a bit oh dear, no, no I would never have gone to anybody, no.
(FXXPS003) [297] Did you tell anybody else that you were pregnant, any of your friends or anyone ?
(FXXPS001) [298] No, no I didn't tell anybody when I you know I when I was doing me upmost, of course they knew afterwards that er because of me going in the hospital you see.
(FXXPS003) [299] Where did you get from in those days?
(FXXPS001) [300] Pardon?
(FXXPS003) [301] Did you get from a chemist?
(FXXPS001) [302] Oh yes, oh yes, you got it from the chemist.
[303] It was what, I used today, they used it in all hospitals.
[304] Oh yes.
(FXXPS003) [305] Mm so it wasn't as if there was any query when you went to ask for it cos it [...]
(FXXPS001) [306] Oh no but you see that was for cleanliness.
[307] You see that was to see that you know there wasn't any, yes.
[308] And when they, I don't think there was any queries, not with er the pills or the or ... erm Indian bark, have I said that?
[309] Indian bark.
[310] Erm mustard, gin, oh the things that they ... you know they used to do.
[311] And I and I as I say a lot was done because the poverty.
[312] I mean they haven' they they don't know today really you know well I think it's wonderful.
[313] I don't grumble about me pension, I could do with more, but I don't.
[314] No.
(FXXPS003) [315] What money did you have coming in at that time in fact?
(FXXPS001) [316] Oh I don't think we di we'd hardly anything.
[317] They wouldn't, the miners hardly got anything and there used to be soup kitchens for us and er when it first started in nineteen twenty six and er I was pregnant with my second one and I used to walk right down to Pit with a lace, great big lace basket, they wouldn't let the men fetch the coal and we had to push the coal from there right to the, oh they've no idea love, no idea.
[318] You see there'd been the nineteen fourteen eighteen War, then there'd there was the strike, and er I started to work and I had to go to work.
[319] And I've had to work, I worked till I was seventy.
(FXXPS003) [320] So when you were working as a waitress was that the only money that was coming into the house then?
(FXXPS001) [321] Yes, yes.
(FXXPS003) [322] Because your husband was on strike at the time?
(FXXPS001) [323] Yes, yes, yes and I wouldn't pay my rent because er ooh and I can tell you really the exact date when I er was pregnant because I know I quickened at the when it was first opened and er I was a waitress in the Room I think it was.
[324] But it was beautiful then.
[325] And I quickened then, of course you daren't go to work those days when once they knew you was pregnant it was a case of out.
[326] And also er there was the Picture House then, there's not any people remember it, next to.
[327] And er the woman there she wouldn't sign the paper because ny husband was a miner for me to get a drop of milk for him.
[328] That's how much assistance the miners had then.
[329] You know they didn't get the, you know, they've gone too far now.
[330] Everything is a, was a good thing that the unions but they're going too far.
[331] They're just taking a bit too much on.
[332] Well that's my idea and I mean as a [...] , then we got the other War.
[333] So we haven't had er, we'd no chance really to save.
(FXXPS003) [334] So when you were pregnant did your husband know you were pregnant ?
(FXXPS001) [335] Yes er but I don't think he knew what I did, I think he thought I used to take the boiling water upstairs you see int he bedroom and er I think he just thought I was sitting on it to open the womb.
[336] No.
(FXXPS003) [337] He didn't er make any suggestion
(FXXPS001) [338] No.
(FXXPS003) [339] that he knew what you were goin was going on at all?
(FXXPS001) [340] Oh no, no.
[341] I wouldn't let him know that.
[342] No.
[343] No, he wouldn't have agreed with it you know but
(FXXPS003) [344] You didn't talk about it at all then?
(FXXPS001) [345] No, not what I'd actually done, cos he was very frightened when I went in the ... hospital.
[346] I was ill, but he didn't know actually that I had used that method.
(FXXPS003) [347] Yes.
[348] Can I just ask one thing, a another thing about the time you were living in, erm did you as a woman know anything about contraception?
(FXXPS001) [349] There was the what they tern the French letter.
[350] But they couldn't afford them.
[351] And it's true, I've seen my husband get water and wash it out well and er put powder and that because, and yet you shouldn't, you see they weren't safe really but they was that poor love they had to.
(FXXPS003) [352] Mm.
(FXXPS001) [353] I mean it's unbelievable. [...]
(FXXPS003) [354] So was there anything that you could do apart from leaving it to your husband?
(FXXPS001) [...]
(FXXPS003) [355] Was there anything you could do via means of contraception, rather than just leaving it to your husband?
(FXXPS001) [356] I didn't know anything.
[357] I think some people they used to put a, I think some used a little sponge and put something on but I didn't.
[358] I didn't, until that actually happened you know, I didn't believe in anything like that.
(FXXPS003) [359] And you didn't know about anything else?
(FXXPS001) [360] No, no, no, only the medicines and different pills and different things, you know, that these women used to ... do to their selves.
(FXXPS003) [361] Oh what sort of medicines an pills were those?
(FXXPS001) [362] Oh I think, wasn't there Pills, pink pills and ... ooh I forget what else.
[363] I know they used to put bark in their inside,,, that's right.
[364] And then I said they used to have the mustard baths.
(FXXPS003) [365] Oh yes.
(FXXPS001) [366] And they used to take the gin and these pills and you know.
(FXXPS003) [367] Yes.
(FXXPS001) [368] Gin er was that er Alderman , the old gentleman, the older alderman, you know he's been dead years now from , and erm they were very good.
[369] They used to er send a lot of er in erm Street is it, up at the er, you know what I, that that jus , in Street was it, in Street?
[370] Street.
[371] Er there used ti be a place there but er, no I can never remember knowing or else I should think I should've gone.
[372] Only I didn't, daren't mention it to the doctors you know.
[373] You didn't
(FXXPS003) [374] Was it not something people talked about with their doctors then?
(FXXPS001) [375] No, no, no, no.
[376] No.
(FXXPS003) [377] Why was that?
[378] Were they er a bit er frightening the doctors then or?
(FXXPS001) [379] Well did I don't know things are so open and you know, these days.
[380] But I still maintain to encourage them at twelve years of age to be ab oh I think it's all wrong.
(FXXPS003) [381] Mm, mm. [break in recording]
(FXXPS003) [382] Now you had three children within two and a half years.
(FXXPS002) [383] Yes, two years and four months.
[384] Mm.
[385] Yes I did i well I did hear of several things to stop having them but over the first actually.
[386] And er the pills, all different sorts of pills,, Doctor pills, er there was all kinds of pills in those days that you could take to you know, to stop you from having them you see.
(FXXPS003) [387] This was after you became pregnant you mean?
(FXXPS002) [388] Yes that's right, oh yes.
[389] Mm.
[390] Mind you if you didn't er lose it up to three months, there wasn't much chance after.
[391] If you kept it up to three months there's cat in hell's chance you'll lose it after that.
[392] But erm if you took these pills religiously, some of them you would probably lose it.
[393] That all depended on how strong you was internal you see.
[394] If you were very strong internal well you wouldn't lose it.
[395] But er
(FXXPS003) [396] And where did people get these pill from?
(FXXPS002) [397] Chemist mostly, erm erm chemist and er er not health stores, there's one on Road, used to be one, not Road, one on Road now.
[398] Er
(FXXPS003) [399] herbalists you mean ?
(FXXPS002) [400] That's it.
[401] And there was one in ,, he's packed up cos they've [...] these houses.
[402] They
(FXXPS003) [403] Were they sold openly?
(FXXPS002) [404] Well yes, yes they was.
[405] Mm.
[406] Er only th back counter effort was er Slippery Elm, that was a back of the counter sort of thing, Slippery Elm, because it was dangerous practice.
[407] Slippery Elm you see you had to tape it down to a fine point and then insert it you see, and if you didn't get the right place well it'd kill you.
[408] Well everything's dangerous practice really where speaking pills and all the lot.
[409] I still I still think they are today, and er, there was the Slippery Elm and then of course there was these backstreet effort.
[410] Yes there was one in .
[411] She went to prison for seven years when she was caught.
[412] Now she used to used a crochet hook, yeah.
[413] But the whole point was, my mother-in-law told me this, when I was very young.
[414] You see, the the erm wait a minute ... the womb is like two knuckles together like that,wh when you conceive they close like two bones you see [...] they close, and they if you want to get rid you've got to open it which is which is damned hard work and of course terrible pain attached to it.
[415] You couldn't open it less with force, an it's great force.
[416] Anyway then as I say they used to have these this back street effort and if you do it yourself you could do it with erm the enema syringe.
[417] Could do it with the enema syringe in the bath.
[418] That was another way of doing it.
(FXXPS003) [419] And when did you first know about these kinds of methods of abortion?
(FXXPS002) [420] Well I got to know about them when I first got married, when I was in the back street, you know in the terraces.
[421] You get to know from there.
[422] Then of course at I mean you, at you could all sorts of things from there.
[423] In factories you hear a lot, in factories.
[424] Everybody talking, everybody's giving each other the gen of what to do and where to go and what have you.
[425] Bit I learnt quite a lot in, from the back you know, in the terraced.
[426] They knew everything bar the kitchen sink, what to do and what not to do.
[427] Everything was a dangerous practice though by the same rule.
[428] You were damn lucky if you survived the ordeal.
[429] But you can well imagine.
(FXXPS003) [430] So if you wanted to end a pregnancy it wouldn't er be a problem finding out about it?
(FXXPS002) [431] Oh no, no there was too many things to be had then.
[432] Too ma mind you it's easy today with that p , I don't think that pill's reliable.
[433] It's not, anybody with blood trouble [break in recording]
(FXXPS002) [434] [...] they couldn't take it.
(FXXPS003) [435] No.
(FXXPS002) [436] No they couldn't but in our days, in the younger days, to keep off it was the French letters.
(FXXPS003) [437] That was the only thing, was it?
(FXXPS002) [438] That was actually the only thing and then the sponges after that.
[439] The, I tell you that place that they had in Street used to ins insert the sponges.
(FXXPS003) [440] The clinic, we're talking about ?
(FXXPS002) [441] [cough] Yes that's right yes.
[442] They inserted the sponge.
[443] That's what you went there for then.
[444] Then of course failing that, if you didn't want that doing you'd er try the French letters and they were supposed to be er you know supposed to be intact and supposed to be the thing.
[445] Unless they of course there were different sorts of that you know even.
[446] And er it had been known for them to split.
(FXXPS003) [447] Mm.
(FXXPS002) [448] And the sponges had been known to move and not be right and even today they've when they've had this er [cough] what is it, this er operation for it they've conceived after haven't they?
[449] Yes they have.
(FXXPS003) [450] What was the view amongst men and women in those times, was preventing having children regarded as a as a woman's job?
[451] Or was it something men took responsibility for?
(FXXPS002) [452] Well, well I don't know, I think, well the men u of course we didn't use the French letters did we?
[453] So I mean if the man was going to take it on himself I mean er he used the French letter then when that clinic started up as I would say, the women would go there you see stop that lark because they didn't even they didn't even let, er take very kindly to the French letters some of them didn't you know, the men.
[454] [cough] But er I should say myself that er it all depended on the man really you know in a way didn't it, either one way or th other.
[455] It all depended on the man.
[456] And then a lot depended on the women as well hand on till death well you what do you expect to be pregnant next morning.
[457] Don't you?
(FXXPS003) [458] Mm.
(FXXPS002) [459] You see that's the trouble you see every individual is different in the make up of life they are, so some'd get pregnant by oh you might as well say looking at one another and another one they might perhaps go years and not get pregnant.
[460] In my case you get pregnant at every verse end, cos I came of a big family you see, mm.
(FXXPS003) [461] So after you'd had your three children did you get pregnant again?
(FXXPS002) [462] Ooh crikey aye, yeah [...] didn't get, didn't have any [laugh] did as well my word.
[463] Wha yes I did several times but I didn't carry on with them no .
(FXXPS003) [464] No what did you do to stop them?
(FXXPS002) [465] Got the pills, yeah
(FXXPS003) [466] Did they always work?
(FXXPS002) [467] Well most of the time yes [...] Doctor pills were very very good in those days and then of course gin and loads of Epsom Salts brought you down to last leg, no wonder I've got arthritis.
[468] Erm [cough] it was a load of Epsom Salts and er and a lot of gin and hot baths, that brought it on sometimes.
[469] And then again I tell you you could use the enema, and that er but er mostly it would you know you would get right again, but it took some doing, not easy.
(FXXPS003) [470] Was there ever a time when you had to go in for more drastic measures? [...]
(FXXPS002) [471] Well the enema's a drastic measure.
[472] I never went to anybody.
(FXXPS003) [473] No.
(FXXPS002) [474] Never.
[475] I could never allow [...] anybody to do [...] anything for me, can't now.
[476] I'm so self reliant that I if I was going o do anything it'd have to be me that would do it, for the simple reason I couldn't trust anybody else, not in that particular thing anyway.
(FXXPS003) [477] But was this very common amongst people you were living with, were they, was it very common to to stop pregnancies like this ?
(FXXPS002) [478] Oh yes it was.
[479] Oh yes when we were younger, it was common.
[480] In all these with what you know they'd have children by the galore in these er terraced houses.
[481] All taking stuff, first one then another.
[482] Yeah.
[483] Then factories as well when the War was on.
[484] That's when the War was on you see, things got worse, they were all in the family way, all them as could be in it.
[485] Mm, believe me all trying to get rid.
[486] Was.
[487] [laugh] I'd got two pals that tried to get rid, they did get rid eventually, yeah.
(FXXPS003) [488] Do you know anything about erm people who did abortions in back streets?
(FXXPS002) [489] Did I know?
(FXXPS003) [490] Did you know any
(FXXPS002) [491] [...] I didn't know the person but I knew of her and I knew a friend of mine went to her, this is the one that did seven years.
(FXXPS003) [492] Mhm.
(FXXPS002) [493] She was in the back streets.
[494] Yes she did seven years.
[495] So
(FXXPS003) [496] And you told me that she used to use a crochet hook.
(FXXPS002) [497] Ah yeah they used crochet hook they did.
[498] Mm.
[499] Fine instruments weren't they, blimey.
(FXXPS003) [500] What sort of person would she have been, I'm I'm wondering whether she would be doing this for money or was she be doing it because she really cared about people .
(FXXPS002) [501] Oh yes, money.
[502] Oh you had to pay her, obviously, mm, yeah, did it for money.
[503] They all do, don't do these things for love, do they?
[504] No.
(FXXPS003) [505] Was it always women, [...]
(FXXPS002) [506] It was a woman that it was a woman that did it.
(FXXPS003) [507] That was a woman.
(FXXPS002) [508] Oh I didn't know of any other, only knew the one.
[509] But she was well known, whe was well known all over .
[510] [cough] Yes she was.
[511] My friend went to her, she didn't get rid.
[512] No she went and had the abortion but she had the child eventually.
[513] Mm.
[514] He took her back when he [laughing] come from the War [] .
[515] Oh dear, it makes you laugh don't it.
[516] The family was against it but still he stuck to her.
[517] No I bet the lass must be getting on now.
[518] Mm.
[519] Tried ever so hard to get rid but she couldn't, she didn't get rid of it, the other two did.
[520] Mm.
[521] They did yes.
[522] But you was with it all the War, even before the War, and then when the War came, and of course you've got a fair amount when the War came on you see.
[523] Mm.
[524] Yes you've got knowledge all the time with living with people around you.
[525] It was, the back streets were where a lot of this business was.
[526] People had got no money you see having a load of kids and they keep always being in the family way, naturally trying to get rid of them you see because they didn't want them obviously.
[527] I wouldn't say that's because of money today would you?
(FXXPS003) [528] No.
(FXXPS002) [529] No, no, it's not money today actually is it?
[530] Not so bad as it was then in those days.
[531] It was bad cos there was no money, no money about at all, nineteen twenty six strike and what have you and no there was no money at all so people didn't want their babies did they?
(FXXPS003) [532] No.
(FXXPS002) [533] Mm.
(FXXPS003) [534] Erm was this something that you talked about with your husband when you found you you were pregnant, erm did you discuss it with him at all?
(FXXPS002) [535] He didn't use to like ti, never, he was always terrified at what I wouldn't do next.
[536] Mm.
[537] Yes [break in recording]
(FXXPS003) [538] Mm.
(FXXPS002) [539] No he was always terrified at what I'm going to do next.
[540] I remember him being in a pub a while back and a woman saying to him, What's your wife going to do?
[541] He said, Madam, I never know what my wife's going to do she's so unpredictable.
[542] I was [...] [break in recording]
(FXXPS003) [543] Would he rather you had the children then?
(FXXPS002) [544] Well I think he would've, he was very fond of children you know.
[545] Yes he didn't like me to make, he liked, he didn't like me to anything that was going to upset me.
[546] At all, any drastic measures what so ever.
[547] He'd he never liked it.
[548] No, never.
[549] No.
(FXXPS003) [550] I was wondering whether it was common for women when they were found they were pregnant to talk amongst their women friends and really leave the men [...] out of it as it were.
(FXXPS002) [551] Oh ah we used to get together and we used to discuss each other you know what we could take and what we couldn't take.
[552] We didn't used to talk to the men about ti obvious.
[553] Never talked to the men about it.
[554] [...] doing it at the back of their, at the back.
[555] Without them knowing, most of the time.
[556] I can only really remember one occasion when my husband knew that I was I was taking Pills at the time, I think I took about twenty eight in one night.
[557] pills, that's the only time he ever knew.
[558] And he was furious.
[559] He didn't he didn't approve of it, so you, we didn't talk to your husband about it.
[560] No you go together with the women, same in factories, they're all talking about different things of what you're doing and what you can do.
[561] [cough] As I say sometimes it was it was er it worked and sometimes it didn't.
[562] If it didn't work well you just made yourself ill for nothing.
[563] And it makes you wonder as well if it didn't revolve back onto he children you know.
(FXXPS003) [564] Yes.
(FXXPS002) [565] You've got to watch that you see, did it revolve back on the children.
[566] It's up to thee months, I say after three months no good taking anything at all because you'd never lose it, not after three months.
[567] At three months it is the weakest of the womb, that is li that is for everyone, if anybody's got a weak inside well they's lose it, they's be liable to lose it more than anybody else with out taking anything.
[568] I tell you one that's got a strong inside, you manage up to three month but you're no good after three months.
[569] It's a waste of time.
(FXXPS003) [570] What about doctors in those days, did they give anybody advice about erm
(FXXPS002) [571] Just tell you not to do it.
[572] The doctors were very keen you know very keen, and if actually if they had to go anywhere when there was trouble you know say you'd got haemorrhage or anything like that they were supposed to report it you know.
(FXXPS003) [573] Mhm.
(FXXPS002) [574] Obviously did do a thing.
[575] Yes the er the doctors were very very keen in those days they'd repo , I remember Doctor telling me about a case on .
[576] And I was very young, somebody'd used Slippery Elm, and she'd died.
(FXXPS003) [577] Mhm, mhm.
(FXXPS002) [578] Yeah.
(FXXPS003) [579] And what would happen when somebody was reported, would it then become a police case?
(FXXPS002) [580] Well I should say yes they would, I should say there was trouble for them obviously when it was reported.
[581] Yes I think they was had up, if they were alive t , excuse me, to tell the tale.
[582] Ooh yes, they'd be had up.
(FXXPS003) [583] O on the other end did did erm doctors give any advice about contraception, such contraception as there was at that time?
(FXXPS002) [584] I can't remember him telling me much at all, not .
[585] No I can't.
(FXXPS003) [586] Well perhaps you might have more contact with the nurse erm the district nurse.
(FXXPS002) [587] They didn't tell you anything.
[588] Didn't know much theirselves, any more than these do today. [laugh]
(FXXPS003) [589] Mm.
(FXXPS002) [590] They tell me I know more than them. [break in recording]
(FXXPS003) [591] But you said you you when I asked you about the clinic on Street you thou you thought had heard of it.
(FXXPS002) [592] I did, I felt sure er I probably went there once.
[593] I cou I fel felt I could m when you said the name it struck me very forcibly.
[594] I felt sure that I went there but I don't think, I don't know what happened but I don't think they were ever so successful really.
[595] I don't think the men minded really you know, having these things inserted, it saved them a lot of trouble.
[596] Mm.
[597] It did but er it's a two way switch this business you know, you've got to er you've got to be together on the job haven't you really two sw two way switch.
[598] Mm.
[599] It's what I always think about it. [recording ends]