Jackson, Helen (1 of 2). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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Interviewee’s home, Sheffield
Jackson, Helen, 1939- (speaker, female)
Irving, Henry, 1986- (speaker, male)
Part 1: [Session One: ] Helen Jackson (HJ) [nee Price, b. 1939] born East Keswick. Description of family, three older brothers, brothers’ evacuation to different areas in wartime, consequent sheltered existence as only child at home. Comments on move as family to Hertfordshire from Yorkshire aged nine, spending remainder of childhood in Hertfordshire, remarks on teenage years. [00:01:00] Remarks on East Keswick, rural nature, attending school, cycling to school, comments on vivid memories of independence brought by cycling, being in open air. [00:02:10] Remarks on parents’ origins, parents’ education, professions, mother’s resentment of not going to university. [00:03:10] Comments on parents’ reasons for moving to Yorkshire, father’s stammer impeding law career, further comments on parents’ work, parents’ marriage, father becoming secretary of Yorkshire College of Further Education. [00:04:15] Remarks on impact on family of Second World War, impact of evacuation, family experience of bombing, father’s First Aid role, delivering food in truck with mother, memories of picking rosehips for rosehip jelly, travelling by train to visit brothers. [00:05:30] Further comments on attending school during war, learning to read at home. [00:07:15] Remarks on family reactions to 1945 election results, colouring in constituencies on maps, radical nature of paternal grandfather’s politics, paternal grandfather’s membership of humanist society, paternal grandmother’s interest in Suffragettes, father joining Labour party after retirement. [00:09:50] Comments on editing book about great grandparents, great grandparents’ missionary work in South Pacific, radical nature of great grandparents’ church work, grandmother’s stories of growing up in South Pacific. [00:11:30] Remarks on father’s humanism, parents not being active churchgoers, own dislike of Sunday School. [00:12:30] Comments on reasons for family move to Hertfordshire, father’s shyness, father’s desire to move to different job, father’s commute to London, dislike of new job, own happiness at secondary school, parents’ unhappiness in new home, mother’s attempts to get new job as health visitor. [00:14:25] Comments on parents’ return to Yorkshire. [00:15:00] Comments on attending school, junior school, boredom at new school in Hertfordshire, doing and passing eleven plus aged ten, Watford Girls Grammar School being full, plans to attend new grammar school at Hemel Hempstead, not wanting to attend co-educational school, remarks on grammar school ultimately attended. [00:17:10] Remarks on being year younger than others in school year, impact on childhood, making friends easily, travelling to school by bus, remaining friends with bus companions. [00:18:00] Remarks on school staff, unmarried women in teaching, different types of pupil, doing well in exams and at sport, enjoyment of history and maths, also studying English at A level. [00:20:10] Remarks on particular teachers, interest in music, difficulties with English teacher. [00:22:00] Remarks on lack of awareness of school’s history, comments on being taken to cultural activities by aunts. [00:23:00] Comments on discovering London with aunts, experiences of aunts in London during war, particular aunt’s work as architect. [00:24:20] Remarks on Waterloo Bridge being built by women during war, further comments on women’s work in wartime. [00:25:10] Remarks on leaving school, assumption that interviewee would study at Oxford, interest in studying history, not getting into Oxford first time, difficulties for women to access Oxford, application to study at Manchester, ultimate acceptance into Oxford, attending interview. [00:27:00] Remarks on father and brothers also attending Oxford, watching boat race, feeling pressure to attend. Comments on enjoyment of degree work, historical specialist areas, remarks on tutors. [00:28:30] Comments on being good at sport at university, playing tennis, interest in music, singing in choir, meeting future husband, plans for marriage after degree. [00:30:00] Remarks on independence of leaving home for first time, going cycling alone, being ‘a bit of a loner’, enjoying outdoors, not receiving money from parents. [00:31:20] Remarks on summer jobs, saving up for holidays, working as au pair in France, working at Rowntree’s, having less money than other students, not spending much money. [00:32:55] Comments on walking holiday in Alps with parents, spending most childhood holidays in England, further comments on working as au pair in France. [00:33:50] Comments on taking on job before Oxford in father’s old office in Leeds, remarks on pay and accommodation, returning home before going to Oxford, taking on au pair job to improve French. [00:35:30] Remarks on meeting future husband, going on camping trip. [00:37:00] Remarks on brother being at Oxford. [00:37:25] Remarks on political activity at university, joining Labour club, other lobby group clubs, going to listen to political speakers, shyness about speaking, future husband’s political involvement. [00:39:10] Remarks on working in Queen’s University library after graduation and marriage, not knowing what future career would be, being independent from parents. [00:40:30] Remarks on parents’ traditional gender roles in house, being brought up with traditional idea of female role in life, enjoyment of working in library. [00:41:15] Remarks on working in teaching, becoming pregnant, stopping working, helping husband with PhD, moving to Liverpool, having more children. [00:42:00] Comments on becoming political, having first child and disappointment in maternity services inspiring interest in politics, living in Stoke on Trent and Liverpool. [00:42:40] Comments on friends in different areas, joining Labour Party after being in lobbying groups for maternity services. [00:43:25] Remarks on voluntary work after having children, husband setting up courses for women, helping husband with work, volunteering in playgroups, volunteering with Labour Party. [00:44:25] Comments on brother standing for parliament and being elected, own wariness of becoming elected politician, preference for community activism, Harold Wilson being own MP in Liverpool. [00:45:40] Comments on joining Labour Party around 1962, joining women’s section, women’s section being involved in traditional female activities, lack of canvassing activity, going to Harold Wilson’s office in Liverpool looking to canvass, setting up organisation in own area, becoming political education secretary, gratitude to George Rodgers for encouragement in speaking in debates. [00:48:20] Comments on shyness when speaking in public, feeling comfortable canvassing, involvement in canvassing in Hightown area of Liverpool, leaving area in 1974. [00:49:30] Comments on starting teacher training after youngest child turned three, working as teacher for a year. [00:50:10] Comments on teaching shaping political views, reasons for going into teaching, training as primary teacher, moving to teach in secondary schools, teaching in special needs secondary education, teaching maths. [00:51:45] Comments on skills/expertise as woman in teaching, understanding how to persuade/praise children, encourage success, enjoyment of teaching, exhausting/important nature of job. [00:52:45] Remarks on lack of involvement in NUT. [00:53:00] Comments on community activism relating to children/playgrounds, own children’s schooling. [00:54:50] Comments on reason for move to Sheffield, husband’s family origins in Sheffield, development of new adult education college, Northern College, husband becoming vice principal of college. Remarks on grandparents helping with childcare. [00:56:05] Comments on area of Sheffield lived in in 1970s, further comments on enjoyment of outdoors/walking. [00:57:10] Remarks on political involvement in Sheffield, working on committee for Chilean refugees, sharing house with Chilean families in 1970s, visiting Brightside constituency, knowing Joan Maynard, Brightside MP, resisting pressure to stand for council, eventually becoming elected. [00:59:20] Further comments on involvement with Chilean refugees following 1973 Chilean coup, involvement with refugees in Liverpool continuing to Sheffield. [01:01:55] Comments on not wanting to stand for Labour Party because of non working class origins, eventually yielding to pressure to stand, knowing David Blunkett. [01:03:40] Remarks on responsibilities of election, elected position as responsibility rather than honour. [01:04:20] Comments on analysing budgets, challenging lawyers, considering entering law/accountancy career but preferring teaching holidays for childcare. [01:05:00] Comments on important local political issues, mention of Margaret Thatcher, chairing works department, issue of direct labour for councils, use of private labour/competition. Further comments on lacking confidence in speaking in public. Remarks on later issues, miners’ strike, rate capping, learning about self through politics, importance of paying for things, prioritisation of spending, good monetary value, training/equality opportunity/health and safety standards, working with workers’ organisations/trade unions, learning about politics, technicalities. [01:08:20] Further comments on knowing David Blunkett, importance of working relationships with Clive Betts, Bill Michie, Bill Owen, Joan Maynard. [01:09:30] Comments on annual camping trips with own children, other politicians, Chilean refugees, feeling solidarity following trips. [01:10:30] Comments on importance of challenging Margaret Thatcher, lack of militancy in Sheffield, strength of solidarity. [01:11:25] Remarks on involvement with national politics, chairing association of direct labour organisations, chairing Centre for Local Economic Strategies in Manchester, getting to know other local authority leaders, involvement with unions, different national campaigns, tenants’ movement, building workers’ movement, arguing on housing issues, travelling around country. [01:13:40] Remarks on coming to consider standing for parliament following retirement of Martin Flannery, being persuaded to stand. [01:14:40] Remarks on young men being disappointed at union backing of interviewee to stand for Hillsborough, opposition of young men. [01:15:30] Comments on dislike of candidate selection process, becoming ‘hardened’, knowing competitors, feeling better able to do job than competitors, feeling competitive. [01:16:50] Comments on other candidates standing. [01:17:35] Comments on selling self to constituents as woman, national organisational credentials, receiving support from unions, not having support of outgoing MP. [01:19:30] Remarks on trying to win over wards not supporting interviewee following election. [01:19:55] Remarks on fellow candidate having nervous breakdown following election. [01:20:00] Comments on relationship with Martin Flannery, outgoing MP, Flannery’s lack of support for interviewee. [01:21:55] Comments on first majority in 1992, interviewee’s and Flannery’s election results. [01:22:40] Remarks on standing down from council in May 1991 following election. [01:23:10] Comments on campaign messages, ‘Clean, Green and Safe’, messages to women about policy development, having more humane approach to policy development as woman. [01:24:30] Comments on relationship between local and national issues, different issues dealt with, support of local campaigns, having reputation of being close to grass roots, employing lady with Martin Flannery’s money in constituency office, gratitude to employee. [01:26:00] Comments on importance of living in constituency, being known in Sheffield, lack of memories of election opponents. [01:27:20] Comments on belief in own victory in 1992 election, disappointment at Labour’s failure to be elected, memories of election count, personal meanings of victory, memories of speech. [01:29:50] Remarks on election changing professional life, support from husband, living apart from husband at times, husband’s difficulties with being spouse of MP, starting to think independently, wanting to take own path.
Life story interview with Helen Jackson (1939-), former Labour Member of Parliament.