Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Miles Franklin in Deptford
The Australian novelist and feminist Miles Franklin (1879 -1954) is best known for her 1901 autobiographical novel My Brilliant Career (filmed by Gillian Armstrong in 1979).
She lived for a while in Chicago, where she worked for the Women's Trade Union League, and then spent the First World War in England involved in various feminist projects including Charlotte Despard's Women's Freedom League, based in Nine Elms. She was also recruited to help with Margaret McMillan's Deptford nursery for the children of munition workers and described the nursery in an article published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 1916:
'Here in Deptford, under the shadow of St Nicholas's flanked by 'The Plume of Feateher' and 'The King's Head', like Scylla and Chaybdis, in the window of one of the humble houses of the locality, is a hand-printed advertisement of a day-nursery where working mothers are invited to leave their babies from 7 am till 7 pm and that there is a doctor in regular attendacne. The signature at the foot of the announcement is 'Margaret McMillan'...
Underneath it is tunnelled with great cellars leading down to the Thames, and legend has it that the smugglers once kept their goods in the stowage. At any rate, the creek where Drake kept his boats is at hand, and misty lore has it that Queen Elziabeth sat under the mulberry tree around which the toddlers sing 'Here we go round the mulberry tree'....
Inside the enclosure, safe from the brewery lorries and brawlers of the public-houses is a charmed land of infants and toddlers in a newly-planted rose gardem, ranging from six months up to four years of age, who practically spend the day in the open air'
The full article is included in A gregarious culture: topical writings of Miles Franklin.