Printed by the Hogarth Press in 1931, V Woolf provides a meandering introductory letter to her pal Davies and describes being uncomfortable listening to the speeches of the Guild, having false sympathy for the working woman since she could return to her comfortable life as a capitalist. (“When you asked me to write a preface to a book which you had collected of papers by working women I replied that I would be drowned rather than write a preface to any book whatsoever. Books should stand on their own feet… If they need shoring up by a preface here, an introduction there, they have no more right to exist than a table that needs a wad of paper under one leg in order to stand steady.”) Before this, we have the Davies’ note on what co-operatives are, some bright optimistic text that “Co-operation is the beginning of a great revolution!” Members own the shops where they buy, supply their own capital and manage their own business.
The bulk of the text are the recollections of life from the pens of the working women themselves. Lots of common themes: mothers pumped out tons of children (15, sometimes 18), families struggled, people went hungry, husbands were laid off, having babies was difficult due to lack of drugs and needing to work hard to save up for the time off. Almost all of the women suggest that the Guild saved their life, gave them something to work for, gave them a voice, energized them.
Some of the good bits:
I had once by accident gone into a church when a very grand wedding was going on, and I heard the promises made by the contracting parties. I came away with the idea that the woman had given up all her freedom, and that it required a great deal of love to induce a thoughtful woman to give up so much.
The education I got in the Guildroom made me understand more about the laws of the country. So when I was ready to buy my house I had put the mortgage in my name. This caused a little friction between my husband and myself. He thought that although I had earned and saved the money, the house should certainly be bought in his name. He said it did not look respectful for a woman’s name to be put on the deeds when she had a husband alive. I thought different, and so the house is mine.
I have read Colonel Repington’s diary, and advised all our members to read it to teach them, if possible, how the people are regarded merely as pawns in a game and how the war-makers made war lightly, and callously regarded the loss of life. I also read Wilfrid Blunt’s diary. These books should be read by the workers because they find a different point of view and how we are thought of by the other class.