Women holding it together

Photograph: Marine Corps Archives, Flickr


Lorraine Hirst shares what she thinks the BBC series, ‘The Village’ and modern times has in common.

As well as an addiction to Broadchurch, I have been keeping up to date with the Beeb’s, ‘The Village’. Despite obvious parallels with my own childhood: I was brought up in a northern village, with the legacy of wars, long winters and hard times, it also reminds me of current austere times and the role that women are taking in this.

Some things appear to have changed very little, such as the gap between ‘the haves’ and the ‘have nots’, greed, addiction, blame and shame. At the same time there are moments of true kindness and compassion, and examples of strong working women, who appear not just to hold together their families but also their community. In the latest episode, the women were as shell-shocked and war-weary as their husbands and sons – if their poor husbands came home at all – and dealing with grief or scarcity if they didn’t.

During the war, women were encouraged to work in the factories to make uniforms and other items for the war effort. This was thrown back in their faces after the war, when men wanted to be back in their jobs and not pushing a pram to the pub or elsewhere.

I see a parallel with the claims about immigration at the moment (the ‘they are taking our jobs’ movement). I’d better not get started on my views about UKIP and how the NHS would collapse if it weren’t for thousands of foreign medics, midwives, cleaners, nurses, cooks, etc., many of whom are women… Instead, I’ll focus on the marginally safer ground of women doing what they can to bring in money, juggle children, keep costs down whilst also maintaining a healthy lifestyle and sound mind, if that is indeed possible for many.

In my case, I often reach for a wine bottle at the end of a hard day’s thinking, planning, cajoling, consoling, cooking, shopping, tidying, etc. Sometimes it feels as if that’s the only way I can switch off the executive functioning part of my weary brain. No wonder women drink! Having said this, I am on a new health regime, so the mid-week wine, and in fact any wine is off the menu, at least until there’s a shift on the scales and I don’t need to consider buying kaftans as my summer wardrobe!

In my own experience, the market for my type of freelance work has been affected by the recession, for sure. Schools do not have the money they had previously to employ me to do the nice job of working with their less confident kids, or for holiday programmes. There are children with these needs and schools know that my methods work (I can prove it) but unless those children are seriously behind in their studies or causing chaos in the classroom, then while it might be a nice thing to do, funding does not currently stretch to this level of intervention.

Being a woman, and left-handed (I say this is important anyway!), I have adapted and am working with more vulnerable groups. As part of this, I work part-time on a project working with young carers and also work with parents. I am not doing EXACTLY the kind of work I want to do, or, by any means, getting paid what my qualifications, training and experience are really worth, but times are different and it’s easier to get more work when one is already in a job, than waiting for precisely the right job to come along. Besides, I’m still doing some freelance work and this helps me strike a balance personally, financially and career-wise.

Female colleagues of mine have been commended for their work-ethic in taking lower paid clerical jobs to make ends meet, when those commenting have said that their husbands have lost jobs and couldn’t find equivalent work. Are women more able to put aside status and ‘just get on with it’, I wonder? (I’d say that Yorkshire women are, but I would say that!)

So, here’s some praise for the wartime spirit and resilience of women, then and now. Many of whom may have shunned more senior roles in order to be around for their families, or for whom bringing in what was holiday money is now their household main income.

Things will change, but women will not be going back to the kitchen, it is far too late for that.  Instead, we can all blame other groups for the lack of work and salaries. I blame the banks myself…but that’s old news. We have to live and work with ‘what is’ and many great women are doing just that. You know who you are girls.

Lorraine Hirst


I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

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