The Match Girl and the Heiress

The Match Girl and the Heiress

English | January 18, 2015 | ISBN: 0691158509, 0691171319 | PDF | 464 Pages | 30.7 MB

Muriel Lester and Nellie Dowell are the subjects of this biography. Their tales are told against a well-presented, thoroughly researched backdrop of the 1890s and early 1900s in London and further afield.

Muriel was well-off, the daughter of a ship-builder. Nellie was the daughter of a sailor who drowned at sea, so that she and her siblings were taken from their mother into a poorhouse until she could get employment with the match firm where her mother worked. Women were not able to earn as much as men and could not support a family.

In her early twenties Nellie was sent by R Bell & Co, the firm, which faced strikes over low pay, bad working conditions and dangerous use of phosphorous, to make matches in New Zealand. The authorities here had read of the London working conditions and were determined not to allow such deplorable situations to arise, so Nellie was much better off. The firm saved by not exporting matches long distance, yet the materials to make them had to be imported from various countries.

Muriel like many New Women of the time was educated, well-off, in no hurry to marry and raised with Christian values. She and others went out to investigate social conditions, working women, factories and disease. They spoke with journalists and encouraged unions. Muriel met Nellie when the worker returned to London via Scandinavia. She wrote Nellie's biography, leaning on the fact of her childhood having been stolen from her. The two women remained close friends and Muriel travelled widely and became famous, a friend of Ghandi and ardent campaigner for human rights and women's rights.

This book is a great reflection of the wider times and while not a light read will draw in anyone who wants to know more about the changes in our modern world.

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