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

Daytime Program

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Monday, September 21, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1A0111
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Two factory workers take a tea break in London’s East End, 1948 (Photo:Daisy Woodard)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

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.

Book Sale Information

  • Purchase your copy of The Stepney Doorstep Society by Kate Thompson here.
  • SPECIAL NOTE: Politics and Prose is offering a 10% discount to Smithsonian Associates ticket-holders. To claim your discount, enter the code SPECIAL10 in the “Coupon discount” section of Politics and Prose's check-out page. Due to current inventory realities, this book may require several weeks to fulfill and ship to patrons.

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