Almost 200 years after its first publication, and almost 200 years after the death of the author, we are pleased to bring back to the public domain the work of Mary Bailey. In this event her work will be read aloud for the first time since the nineteenth century. The event will be introduced by John Goodridge. We will be joined by Rowena Edlin-White and Miriam Jackson of Nottingham Women’s History Group who have also been working to rediscover the voices of Nottingham women writers from the past.
Doors open 5.30, readings and talk at 6.00
This event costs £7.00 – register via Eventbrite – and includes tea, cake and a complimentary copy of Mary and John’s pamphlet.
We can only accommodate modest numbers for afternoon tea so advance registration is essential.
Mary Bailey’s is a unique female voice in the masculine world of nineteenth-century
Nottingham working-class poetry. A ‘lace-runner’ whose sore eyes and tired fingers
crafted intricately embroidered garments for ‘fine ladies’ as she raised her family of
nine in conditions of poverty, she published thirteen poems, two years before she died, in an attempt to raise money for her family. Often song-like in their rhythms, her verses reflect the struggle to survive and live in a decent way, and of such challenges as being told she had too many children (‘To a Lady who desired me to pray for the death of my youngest child’), trying to make her customers understand what it took to make fine lace and why they should pay fairly for it (‘Petition to the British Fair’), and tackling two middle-class
girls seen tormenting an insect for pleasure (‘The Locust’). Just two fragile copies of her original pamphlet are known to have survived. The present publication, part of a wider recovery of the rich literary past of Nottingham, a Unesco City of Literature, brings it back into the public domain after 200 years.
John Goodridge is an expert on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century labouring-class
poetry. Rowena Edlin-White will be reading from Eliza Oldham’s Beside the Trent, about the lace runners. Eliza wrote about Mary’s era and area which she knew very well, and Lucy Joynes – a woman in Nottingham at the same time as Mary Bailey, who wrote about the urban environment. Miriam Jackson will wind up the event with a word on Susannah Wright, a lace worker and Nottingham’s first radical bookseller.