February 10, 2016 § Leave a comment
Reading My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst. Here’s her wikipedia one-liner: ‘Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote.’
A book that appeals to my conventional socialist sensibilities, and my conventional reading habits, in general. Sometimes I feel that my book taste could be a bit more adventurous rather than a human interest story whenever I’m not stuck in fiction (rarely). Not to devalue the significant achievements of Emmeline Pankhurst, but I always read books, whether biography or history, that have an emotional focus, or which tells a well-known story from a very personal side. For some reason, I don’t tend to pick up books that are more abstract and that are more about ideas. Big-thinking books tend to escape my shelf.
Anyway, as I recently moved, I decided to join my local library, and this book was the first that I picked up. Not because I am a feminist and respect the suffragettes (I mean, I do, but that wasn’t why I picked up the book), but because of this slightly haunting passage that I read when I flicked through the book (and which then stayed with me):
Mrs Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ was so great a favourite with my mother that she used it continually as a source of bedtime stories for our fascinated ears…[a] thrilling tale was the story of a negro boy’s flight from the plantation of his cruel master. The boy had never seen a railroad train, and when, staggering along the unfamiliar railroad track, he heard the roar of an approaching train, the clattering car-wheels seemed to his strained imagination to be repeating over and over again the awful words, ‘Catch a nigger – catch a nigger – catch a nigger -‘ This was a terrible story, and throughout my childhood, whenever I rode in a train, I thought of that poor runaway slave escaping from the pursuing monster.