Restless Dolly Maunder


I remember my grandmother as a stern, frowning, cranky old person.  It was only when I delved into her life that I realised what might have made her that way, and I started to rethink that childhood image. 

Dolly Maunder was born in 1881 into a poor farming family.  It was a bad time and a bad place to be a clever woman.  She wanted to be a teacher, but her unlettered father said ‘Over my dead body!’ That was the first of many closed doors. But by persistence, ingenuity, and a head for business, Dolly wrestled a space where she could make a life for herself, and she made sure her daughter and grand-daughter had choices and freedoms she herself had never had.  

In the stiff old studio photos, trussed up in impossible clothes, those old-time women seem like another species.  I wanted to bring one of them to life and rescue her from the silence that’s engulfed most of our foremothers.  From family stories I knew the outline of my grandmother’s life, but I’ve had to imagine my way into what she thought and felt about any of it. Writing her story as a novel gave me the freedom to discover a brave, resilient, restlessly energetic woman who never stopped pushing at those closed doors – a woman I’ve come to like and admire.