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The Women Who Ruled the East End: Remarkable Tales of Wartime London

Evening Program with Book Signing

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1A0111
$20 - Member
$30 - Non-Member
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Two factory workers take a tea break in London’s East End, 1948 (Photo:Daisy Woodard)

The BBC’s period drama “Call the Midwife” made an eccentric, lovable community of nuns and nurses famous the world over. But what of the formidable East End mothers whose babies they delivered? Join author Kate Thompson and historian Alan Capps as they delve deep into the social history of some truly remarkable women.

During the 20th century, London’s history-rich East End, in common with all working-class communities, was a fiercely matriarchal society. Women in aprons and button-up boots were the beating heart of the tenement neighborhoods. It was the matriarchs—or so-called “aunties”—who ruled the sooty cobblestone streets, kept the children fed, birthed the babies when there was no midwife to call, and laid out the dead.

Thompson and Capps reveal these how these often-overlooked working-class mothers informally but powerfully led their communities and the ways in which they contributed the to the diverse economic, political, and cultural shaping of the East End. And as Britain marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Blitz, they celebrate the astonishing ingenuity, resilience, and strength of the East End women who faced the horrors of war in their own neighborhood streets.

They also discuss the importance of documenting social histories, particularly those focusing on the working-class, and how they brought the stories of these unrecognized women into the spotlight.

Thompson’s book, The Stepney Doorstep Society (Penguin), is available for sale and signing.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)