I was born in December 1922. My earliest memory of my mum is when my sister was born, I was 5 and a half. She was born in the same flat as me, in Boundary Street, Shoreditch.
My mother was a terrific mother, an excellent mother. She made sure we knew we were Jews, but we weren’t religious. We would fast on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and we would keep Pesach (Passover), but we wouldn’t go the whole hog.
When my dad passed away, my mother had to go out to work to keep us. She found a job that wasn’t suitable for her, but at least it was bringing in some money. She was cleaning floors in a Lions Tea Shop; she was desperate.
I had to leave school when my father died. I should’ve been at school until I was 16, but mum was worried about money. The headmaster called me into his office when he found out I was leaving, and asked me how I felt about it. I told him I didn’t want to do it, but I had no choice. My mum had made up her mind and that was that; I left school when I was 14. Mum got me a job as an apprentice dressmaker; I hated it, I loathed it, I still talk about it now. I was furious with my mum for taking me out of school.
I had my first child when I was 22. I had 2 daughters. I was horrified when I found out I was pregnant, because my husband had gone into the army and he was away when I found out. I wrote to tell him, and the first he knew about it was on the frontline at Holland. He said a motorcyclist rode up to him, said “your name Gold? You just had a daughter.” and then rode off again. It was a bit sad not having him around. But I wasn’t the only woman it was happening too. You just hoped they were going to come home; it was 3 months before he saw her.
If you’d ask my sister about me, she’d say that I’d rather not have had children; but that’s not true. I just didn’t want the first one at the time that it happened, because of the war. It wasn’t the time to start having a family.
I wasn’t very broadminded when it came to discussions with my children. I was a bit straight-laced. We talk much more openly now that we’re all much older, than I did when we were younger. Times change; I don’t know if it’s better. I think everything’s too easy these days; everyone’s so promiscuous!
What does motherhood mean to you? These tales and portraits were collected by two Faith Fellows working with Proshanti, a charity set up in response to the need for health facilities for mothers and families in Bangladesh.
Originally exhibited at the V&A Museum of Childhood in London as a pop-up 'Museum of Motherhood' (no link to the wonderful M.O.M. in New York) we're delighted to be sharing these diverse stories as part of our travelling exhibition: Story of Mum: mums making an exhibition of ourselves.
To find out more about Proshanti's work or donate, visit www.Proshanti.org.