Liverpool Miss is the second volume of Helen Forrester’s powerful, painful and ultimately uplifting four-volume autobiography of her poverty-stricken childhood in Liverpool during the Depression.
The Forrester family are slowly winning their fight for survival. But fourteen-year-old Helen’s personal battle is to persuade her parents to allow her to earn her own living, to lead her own life after the years of neglect and inadequate schooling while she cared for her six younger brothers and sisters. Her untiring struggles against illness caused by severe malnutrition and dirt (she has her first bath in four years) and, above all, the selfish demands of her parents, make this a story of amazing courage and perseverance.
‘Records of hardship during the Thirties or earlier are not rare; but this has features that make it stand apart’
‘The story of a young girl’s courage and perseverance against adversity… warm-hearted and excellent’
Manchester Evening News —
This book was originally called Minerva’s Stepchild. Minerva was the Roman goddess of wisdom and her statue sits atop the town hall in Liverpool. Helen saw this golden statue many times during her years in Liverpool and the lonely hours she spent walking her youngest brother and sister around the streets.
“Many people thought it was Britannia who sat looking down at Liverpool, but Father had told me it was Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, Invention and Handicrafts. He assured me that she also took care of dramatic poets and actors.”
For Helen, Minerva was a source of wonder and comfort. “She seemed almost to float in the misty rain, and I wondered suddenly if something more than a statue was really there, some hidden power of ancient gods that we do not understand, and I said impulsively, ‘Hey, Minerva. Help me – please.’”
Helen gets her first job at a social work organization. Although it is not named in the book, it was the Personal Service Society which exists to this day.
Helen was interviewed for a position by a tiny but intimidating woman who, to Helen’s surprise offers her a job for which she did not feel qualified.
“She had asked me a number of questions, but she had not asked me the most important one. Had I any experience of using a telephone?
“I had never spoken on a telephone, never even held a receiver in my hand. What it sounded like, how it worked, were both mysteries to me. The closest I had ever been to a phone was when I had occasionally stepped into a public phone box to press the ‘B’ button, to see if I could retrieve twopence forgotten by a caller who had failed to get his connection.”
She was also painfully aware of how she looked after years of poverty. “I lowered my eyes. I knew I looked awful. Joan’s skirt and blouse hung on me. My rough-cut hair could have served as a mop. Both feet throbbed with the pain of blisters rubbed on tender chilblains, and I was biting my lips as I endured the misery of it. Over me lay the smell of poverty, of a body poorly washed, clothes unaired, foul breath and fatigue.”
In 2003, Helen Forrester served as Patron for the Personal Service Society’s special fundraising appeal.