A Vicar’s Wife in Oxford, 1938-1943, The Diary of Madge Martin

Boydell & Brewer

This Volume can be purchased through the Boydell and Brewer website.


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Volume 72 of the Oxfordshire Record Society series is the diary of Madge Martin (born 1899), the happily-married wife of the Vicar of St Michael at the North Gate in Oxford.

Madge led a pre-war life full of travel, books, films, the theatre, walks, and other leisure activities. With the onset of war – she had been a keen supporter of appeasement – these activities did not end, but they were significantly reduced. Madge found that she had to work harder than ever before – at housework (by 1943 she had lost both her maids), as a volunteer with the Red Cross preparing bandages, and as a provider of housing for her two sisters’ families, who self-evacuated at different times to Madge’s home in Oxford to escape London’s air raids.

This is a well-written private diary that discloses a lot about Madge Martin’s thoughts and feelings and social relations. It also records some tribulations, such as her enduring serious and frequent headaches, and her ambivalence concerning her role as a parson’s wife. In many diary entries, she also details public life in wartime Oxford, which, though never seriously bombed, had still to contend with strain and hardship. While Madge and her husband, Robert, both favoured “placid” lives for themselves, the war forced them to live frequently on the edge of crises, and with a new-found intensity.

This is an absorbing diary that takes the reader into the life of a comfortably-off woman during a time of national crisis. Her wartime perspective is different from those of other women whose diaries and memoirs have so far been published, for it shows how a fairly conventional, unpolitical woman, with a great love for films and the theatre and holidays, strove to preserve the fundamentals of her pre-war life while “doing her bit” for the war effort.

This volume was published on 20 September 2018, and was circulated to the society’s ordinary members and institutional subscribers immediately thereafter. Non-members wishing to order a copy (or members wishing to order a second copy) can go to the website of ORS’s new publisher, Boydell & Brewer, at https://boydellandbrewer.com/9780902509740/a-vicars-wife-in-oxford-1938-1943/.


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