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Places to Go: The History of Mary Prince

Written by Rachael Norris, 9th October 2020

As October is Black History Month, we have chosen a month of readings on this theme for our Daily Readings. Check out our schedule for October by downloading the calendar here. For this Places to Go feature, The Reader's Head of Learning and Quality, Clare Ellis, shares this extract  from The History of Mary Prince by Mary Prince.

This extract from The History of Mary Prince can be found in our Bread and Roses Anthology, part four.

 

The great thing about literature is that it can transport you across time and culture, enabling you to experience life from many different perspectives. Reading this extract of Mary’s story was a real eye opener for me and took me on a journey in more ways than one... 

On first reading of Mary’s experiences, I was struck by how cultural differences can sink into the tiniest and most mundane detailss of everyday life. Mary talks in this extract, for example, of how there was such as thing as ‘washing the English way’ compared to the way she was used to washing back home, in the West Indies. That in England, the expectation was to wash in hot water, whereas Mary had been used to cold. I had never even thought about such differences and the impact that they could have on your own identity and how you adjust to another’s. 

I also gained a much richer appreciation of the word ‘free’. A word that I might take for granted for myself personally, but which is of great moment to Mary’s life, and also on very complicated terms. She is a ‘free’ woman in England, for example, but would not be classed so back home. And yet, being ‘free’ in England in fact means very little without the support needed to build a life. 

After being struck by the particularities of Mary’s experiences however, I then began to think about possible parallels between her own experiences and those of other people, including myself. I found myself recalling, quite unexpectantly, past employers from my early youth, who would use the threat of ‘there’s the door’ when they knew that you were dependent on that weekly wage. The feeling of being trapped, of not being free, can be experienced in many different ways I guess. 

I hope you enjoy spending time with Mary – she still has much to teach us I feel. 

Looking for more? WATCH Clare Ellis do a live #SharedReading session on The History of Mary Prince.

 

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