She had a younger sister, Christine, and two younger paternal half-sisters. She then trained as a nurse at the Royal Berkshire Hospital , Reading , and moved to London to receive training to become a midwife. She left midwifery to work in palliative care at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead. In , she was appointed a licentiate of the London College of Music , where she taught piano and singing. She obtained a fellowship in She performed as a soloist and with choirs throughout Britain and Europe.

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Now that I have finished listening to the audiobook of the second book in this trilogy, I very much regret that I did not take the time to write a review of the first book in the series. The first book in the series introduces the reader to Jennifer Worth and describes how she came, at the age of 22, to join the convent of Saint John the Divine….

Worth describes her life with the nuns at Nonnatus House with the humor, respect and admiration which she developed over the years. The nuns, who had taken a vow of poverty, were devoted to the suffering people of the East End. Also in the first book, Ms Worth takes the reader with her on a bicycling tour the nuns used bicycles to get around , witnessing what it was truly like to be a midwife in some of the most harrowing circumstances.

Women gave birth in the most deplorable conditions in tenements which were overcrowded and filthy… some of which were the remainders of buildings which had actually suffered damage from German bombs during World War II. Ms Worth relates humorous tales and tales that will absolutely break your heart. It seems to me that with as difficult as life can be, at the very least, EVERY child should enter the world in much better circumstances. In this,the second book of the trilogy, Jennifer Worth writes more specifically about a number of the people she met while attending to her duties as midwife.

Not only are these stories a personal accounting of the grinding poverty and hardships experienced by the people, they are also a sociological commentary on what was a common practice in the time period at the beginning of the 20th century.

She describes the development of workhouses, which to me, were nothing more than the sanctioned institutionalization of the poor. I suppose the intentions in developing the workhouses could have been good ones; but as with many ideas which are based on good intentions, the workhouses turned out to be a horrible, dehumanizing experience for those who were corralled inside of them… mothers, fathers and children… all housed separately so they could not even offer each other the smallest comfort.

Worth relates a number of heartbreaking stories of people she met who had been housed in these workhouses; and it was clear that if you had the misfortune of entering these institutions as a child, you would come out of the experience forever changed and sometimes irreparably broken. Worth writes…. Hunger and hardships were expected. Men were old at forty. The death of children were taken for granted. Poverty was frankly regarded as a moral defect……" There were many moving stories in this book but the story Ms.

Worth tells about Jane was particularly crushing for me. Worth came to know Jane as she performed domestic duties in Nonnatus House. Jane had grown up in the workhouse. Reportedly, she had been conceived as the result of an affair between her mother and a man of high social standing. Given that it was socially unacceptable for a young woman to be pregnant and unmarried, her family shunned her and she had no choice but enter the workhouse.

She gave birth to her daughter, Jane, who was promptly sent to the women in the workhouse who cared for the children. Jane stood out from the beginning. She was mischievous and fiercely intelligent with a huge, bright spirit. As children often do.. She was sure her father would show up to take her away. Jane began sharing her fantasy with other girls at the workhouse.

This discipline was a beating and each time it happened, the beatings became more vicious. Eventually, the brutal and malicious master beat Jane until she lost consciousness… and consequently, he finally got exactly what he had been wanting.

He wanted to break the spirit of this bright, intelligent and lively girl whose only crime was wanting a father and a family who would love her.


Read "Call the Midwife"



Shadows of the Workhouse



Jennifer Worth


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