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My great grandma and the temperance movement

Boak (the baby...) and her great granny, a few years back.

Boak (the baby) with grandma and great-grandma

My great-grandma was born in Stepney in 1901. Sadly, I didn’t really get to know her before she died, so this anecdote comes via my mum.

Like other children of that time and place*, my great-grandma was often dispatched to the pub to get some beer for family members, in this case her grandma. However, when she was around 10 or 12 (before the First World War, at least) she took ‘The Pledge’ and joined the temperance movement. Thereafter, she refused to get any beer ever again.

I don’t know why this story tickles me — possibly the fact that something so “Dickensian” as kids fetching alcohol was actually in living memory until recently, or possibly it’s the idea of pre-teens swearing to abstain from alcohol. Or maybe it’s just the evidence of a contrary stubborn streak that persists down the female line to this day…

I’d raise a glass to her, but she’d probably turn in her grave.

Boak

*OK, I don’t have evidence that this was common practice, but Zythophile mentions a similar family story here, and here Ron has collected extracts from Charles Booth’s interviews in the 1890s with London publicans and brewers — which is an absolutely fascinating read — which mentions this on a number of occasions.