Monday, April 4, 2011

A 1910 Postcard - Amanuensis Monday

Dear Bertha,
   I am
at the Bazaar
Ma and Auntie too
the pound stall
is doing well
with best love

[at the top]
pleased you like
it   LOVE

Miss B. Roberts
Holy Trinity
Hyde Terrace
Clarendon Rd

My grandmother never told me the story behind this postcard, but from her memoirs and an audio tape she made in the 1970s I can piece together what was happening.

Bertha Roberts, my grandmother, was born on 30 September 1897 in Leeds, Yorkshire, England.  I know that age 12 she had to go to work, and she became the "undernurse" at the Bishop's home in Leeds.  Imagine being wealthy enough to have a staff of servants that included a governess, a nurse and an undernurse!  In the 1970s there was a British TV show called "Upstairs Downstairs" about Edwardian England and it was one of the first programs that focused on the life of the staff, not just the wealthy people of the house.  I think of my grandmother whenever I see re-runs of that TV show.  Bertha was allowed only one half day a month to go home to see her family!

My grandmother had lots of memories of growing up in Leeds, and most of them centered around the church.  The Roberts family went to the All Soul's Hood Memorial Church.  This church is still standing and the current vicar sent me a nice letter describing the building and its history.  Bertha belonged to the Girl's Friendly Society, and the Needle Brigade, which made items for the charity bazaar.  The pound stall mentioned in the post card was the table at the fair which sold items for one pound (there was a penny stall, a shilling stall, etc.). 

Hilda, who penciled the message on the postcard, was Bertha's older sister, born in 1891.  She was apprenticed to a seamstress, and in 1914 she married at All Soul's Church and came to America with her husband to start a new life and family in Beverly, Massachusetts, where another Roberts relative had come about a dozen years earlier.  In 1915 the rest of the family, their parents, Bertha and her brother Horace, came to Beverly, too, via Liverpool and Ellis Island.

To read a transcription of Bertha's tape telling about life as an "undernurse" please click on this link

Copyright 2011, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. What a wonderful tape to have. And a great postcard.

  2. Heather - thanks for posting the link to Bertha's tape. I've just sat and read all 6 parts and absolutely loved it. Could "lockenbar" which Bertha said she recited (in Part 3) be Walter Scott's "Lochinvar"? Jo :-)

  3. Dear Jo, Thanks so much for your kind comments. I would think that Scott's "Lochinvar" would be correct. We all listened to that part of the tape several times and didn't catch it! I would love to figure out how to put selections of the audio tape on the blog, because her story is so fascinating.