Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rosie's Riveters: Jane & Sarah Burton

Rosie's Riveters is a weekly posting written by Booklust readers about riveting females in literature. Many readers have strong reactions to the women in the books they read- either very positive or very negative. These are the characters we find riveting, for good reasons or bad ones, and they form the population of Rosie's Riveters. Through this weekly post, we can discuss females we love to hate, or love to love. And maybe, just maybe- we can determine why we react so strongly to them.

If you are interested in participating, please comment on this post or e-mail me and I'll add you to the line-up! You can also just fill out the template and send it along and I'll save it until it's time to post.

This week's post is by Jane, who posts at Fleur Fisher reads. I've been following Jane's blog for a while, though she probably doesn't know that as I rarely comment there :-) She reads a really interesting mix of books, many of which recently focus around the themes of war (because of a challenge she's participating in). Jane hails from Cornwall, and so her blog has introduced me to many British authors and stories that I never would have come across otherwise. I highly recommend checking her reviews out- they're thoughtful and interesting and generally are of books I don't get much exposure to.

Who is your Riveter?

Sarah Burton

What book does she feature in?

Sarah features in Winifred Holtby's final novel, South Riding.

South Riding was published posthumously in 1936, and widely acclaimed as Winifred Holtby's masterpiece.

Do you love her or hate her?

I very definitely love her.

Describe her personality- how would you describe her to a friend?

Sarah's a striking figure. A small woman with a fine head of red hair. She has the quick temper to go with that hair, and she has strong opinions, but she really is a lovely person and a very good friend.

She comes from Yorkshire - the South Riding. Her mother was her nurse and a father a blacksmith, but he drank and so Sarah had to make her own way in life. And make her own way she did! She became a teacher. She's taught in tough schools in London and in South Africa, but now she's come home and got a job as a headmistress here in the South Riding. She's a wonderful teacher and would do anything for her girls.

Her problem, though, is men. A classic case of loving not wisely but too well.

Can you compare her to a celebrity?

None that I can think of.

What makes her riveting?
Sarah is a determined woman with a true vocation. She's a truly dedicated teacher, and she really believes that she can improve her girls' futures through education. Her job as headmistress isn't without its problems though.

Emma Beddows is the first woman alderman in the district and a governor of the school. She appreciates Sarah's qualities as a teacher, but she has rather different views on a lot of things - and she's just as stubborn as Sarah.

Robert Carne is a county councilor and a struggling gentleman farmer. His wife is in an asylum and he worries that their daughter Midge will inherit her mental illness. He's very protective of his daughter and believes that Sarah is pushing her too hard.

Lydia Holly loves learning and Sarah believes she has more potential than any other child she has taught but, when her mother dies after one pregnancy too many, her father pulls her out of school to look after her younger siblings. Sarah is not happy!

And, of course, she ruffles the feathers of some of the school staff who are rather set in their ways.

What do you most admire/despise about her?

You can't help but admire Sarah's spirit and vitality. And her vocation and her willingness to work so hard for her girls really is inspiring.

There's nothing to despise. She can be stubborn and she doesn't always appreciate other people's different points of view, but she does have the best of intentions.

Would you recommend reading the book in which the Riveter features?

Yes! Winifred Holtby is a wonderful author, and this is marvellous tale.

Do you have a quote by or about your Riveter that you'd like to share?

"Sarah believed in action. She believed in fighting. She had unlimited confidence in the power of the human intelligence and will to achieve order, happiness, health and wisdom. It was her business to equip the young women entrusted to her by a still inadequately enlightened State for their part in that achievement. She wished to prepare their minds, to train their bodies and to innoulate their spirits with some of her own courage, optimism and unstaled delight."


  1. never head of this book but sh sure sounds like a strong woman :D

  2. I love strong female characters like Sarah and I love Jane's blog!

  3. I love strong female characters too! Jane makes her sound like a wonderful woman. I am almost tempted to rush out and buy the book. I will resist...and see if the library has a copy!

  4. I had not yet heard of Sarah, but she does sound like a wonderfully strong and capable woman. I think I will be taking a closer look at this book, it seems different than most of my usual reads, but very interesting. Thanks!

  5. Sarah sounds fascinating.

    What a great series - I'd love to take part if I may!

  6. I'm a fan of Jane's (Fleur Fisher) blog and had to come here and read about her favorite riveter. I had a hunch it would be Sarah Burton. Jane certainly understands Sarah and they have become such good friends.

  7. I haven't heard of Sarah before, but not I really want to meet her!

  8. Fabulous series!

    South Riding has been on my wishlist for a while but now I really must meet Sarah Burton.

  9. I love this blog so much I can hardly stand it. Thanks for sharing.
    All the very best,

  10. This is a new book to me as well! Thanks for sharing.

  11. I'm so glad that Jane loves to read these older books because without her posts we would miss out on some great reads!!


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