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.