Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Cooperative Correspondence

I am reading an enchanting book: Can any mother help me? By Jenna Bailey.

It is a history of a Cooperative Correspondence Club, or CCC, set up in the mid 1930s by a group of women in response to letter sent into a women’s magazine. The letter was from a young mother, living in rural England, bored and frustrated by domesticity and the loneliness of her life who was yearning for a hobby ‘to stop myself brooding’. Several readers of the magazine got in touch with her to suggest a correspondence club, and the CCC was born.

Each woman (there were about 20 to 25 altogether) submitted an article to the person they had all agreed would be editor. The editor bound the articles all together and added a homemade cover before posting the magazine off to someone in the club along with a list of who the magazine was to be posted to next. Each woman could add notes and comments to any of the articles before posting it on. A new magazine was compiled and sent out every fortnight so there were always several issues in circulation at once. The women wrote about their experiences with their children and their wider families. They also wrote about politics, birth, books they had read, philosophy, sex, economics, funny exploits, health and the cinema. Any and every topic was covered, and some lively debates came out of the articles and comments.

The friendships these women made in the CCC lasted for over fifty years. They were from all over Britain and Ireland and their correspondence club continued until they were old women in their seventies and eighties. Some of them met in person on a regular basis. Many never met, and even kept their identities secret through nom-de-plumes. But they were all friends, and the letters, articles and comments sustained them through the difficult as well as the ordinary and joyous times in their lives.

It struck me last night, that if these women had been born into our era, they would be blogging. I didn’t start my blog because I was lonely or frustrated, but what I get out of blogging and reading other people’s blogs seems to match what the women in the book got out of the CCC. The friendships, the pictures, the sharing of stories from different kinds of women in so many different parts of Britain (and the world), the inspiration, the humour and the unusual viewpoints are all things I love about the blogs I read. Some blogs I follow have authors who were my friends for years beforehand; some bloggers have become new friends. I know I will never meet most of the people who read my blog and yet I feel that I have a friendship with many of them. I know that if we did meet up, we would laugh and chatter with no shyness at all.

This seems to me to be a particularly female phenomenon; this desire to share details of our lives with others and build up friendships through it. Men write blogs too – but the only ones I know of are work blogs – Mark Mardell’s Europe anyone? Are there any men out there writing creatively about their everyday lives and creating friendships across the world with that “Oh! Me too!” feeling? I’ve not found any.

So I think we now have a worldwide Cooperative Correspondence Club – less CCC and more WWW. Although I very often stare at my blog thinking ‘what shall I write next?’ somehow, something always does get written. People read what I write and respond to what I write and so I get to know them. I do the same on other people’s blogs. It sustains me, and I hope I will continue until I am an old lady too.



  1. ive heard of this book before but had completely forgotten about it so will hunt it out ! i know what you mean about the blogging thing though - mine was done because i realised other people out there liked the trivial stuff that i do but which is hard to share in real life sometimes as it seems silly to be oohing and ahhing over crochet, spring flowers and what daft thing happened in the supermarket last week but blogland lets me share that with others and they with me :-)
    Lesley x

  2. Wow. I just started blogging (I'm only 2 posts in) but what you said really resounded with me. I never thought of it that way. I will have to pick up the book!

  3. I've read this book, and it was a deligtful read, a fascinating insight into the ladies many different lives. I shed a tear at the end.

    I think you are right, they would have been bloggers!

    Love Lydia xx

  4. We think we are 'so modern' with our blogging, only to find that as in most good things, someone has done it before.

    I don't think men really get trivia of daily life, do they?

  5. I heard this book being discussed on Woman's Hour. I think your comparison with blogging is spot on - though this is a rather more instant gratification!

  6. I'm going to get hold of a copy of this book., sounds like a great read and very similar to the conncetions we make via blogging. Having so many things in common with women around the world, making a connection over small things, everyday happenings, blogging has opened up a whole new world to me.

  7. it sounds like a great read. xx

  8. Oh wow - what a great sounding book. You're right, I think. Blogging is a modern version of the same.


  9. I think I would enjoy this book very much. By the time I read your second paragraph I too thought that they sounded like modern day bloggers. Lets hope our blogs can stand the test of time.

  10. wow-the book sounds like inspirational stuff, I shall have to add it to my list.
    I know exactly what you mean, your post has probably had lots of women nodding and saying 'Me too' because as you say, lots of us may never meet but feel as if we have known each other for years.
    I love the idea of these articles though, each being added to and then passed on etc..sounds like a great big fun scrapbook full of the sort of stuff we would all be interested in. Recipes, patterns, book reviews etc.etc.x

  11. It's definitely blogging!

  12. So we're not as cutting edge as we thought we were! You're spot on with your comments, it's good to connect with like-minded people online, and share day to day stuff that seems daft with real life frineds and family. The book is added to my wish list, thanks for the recommendation.

  13. I do not blog but I consume blogs voraciously. In my day-to-day life that revolves around IT management in a university there is not much opportunity to discuss fabrics or knitting or domestic pursuits but I feel that by reading blogs like yours I am really connecting with like-minded souls. In real life I am a much better listener than a talker, so by reading and sometimes commenting I feel like I am playing my role in keeping the conversation alive! Thanks for your posts

  14. What a lovely story and an apt comparison!


Even though I often do not have the time to reply to everybody, I really appreciate all your comments so much - thank you for taking the time to read my blog and share your thoughts on what I've written.