Eglantine Thorpe belonged to that generation of women deprived of husbands and lovers by the First World War in which half a million young men were killed. These women were the Maiden Aunts of the century,expected to look after other women's children and, as unmarried daughters care for their elderly parents until they died.
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In the final volume of the Northrop Hall trilogy, the Crawley children are living with their mother in the village of Netherby, safely away from Gradby, an industrial town where bombs are expected to fall. Their father, involved in war work in London, is an infrequent visitor.Remote from the war, loving the freedom of living in the country, the…
There were some pioneers – and she was one of them – who rejected these assumptions, fought to be allowed to study, enter the professions and carve out a career for themselves, despite the widely held belief that since women were more emotional than men, their brains were unsuited for too much thought and might be damaged by it.
She succeeded against the odds and gained a place at the university, only to give it up two years later when,her brothers having been killed in the war, she felt compelled to train as a VAD and went to France to nurse the wounded and dying. She returned to university after the war, got a good degree and became a teacher in a very poor area. Realising that the families of her pupils were held back by poverty, she got involved in the birth control movement set up to help working-class women who were likely to have fifteen children and as many miscarriages. Middle class couples,who could pay for access to birth control by this time rarely had more than three or four children. The clinic where she helped was threatened with closure by politicians, preached against by the clergy and denounced by several doctors. Her involvement in the
movement, widely condemned as likely to deprave the working classes, lost her the headship for which she applied.
Later she did become the head of a very successful school,only to find that if she married the man whom she had come to love, she would have to give up her job. Women then had to choose between career and marriage. The Second World War changed all that as women were called upon to do all the jobs that had previously been regarded as strictly for men. When she died in the late 1970s the world was a very different place from the one into which she had been born.
The Kingdom of the Rose is a portrait of a remarkable woman whose struggles, sacrifices and triumphs mirror the spirit of the generations she lived through. It is a fictional biography but it is also the story of the twentieth century.