In honour of International Women’s Day, this month’s guest blog post is written by Dennis Cluley, a member of the JQBID Clean Team. It focuses on the author Kathleen Dayus, a prominent female figure from the Jewellery Quarter. The sketch of Kathleen Dayus was kindly created by Sue Benwell.
Kathleen Dayus was born in one of the back to back houses of Camden Street, in the Jewellery Quarter, on 1st February 1903, a full 15 years before women gained the right to vote. She grew up in slum conditions, which were a million miles from the Jewellery Quarter of today. Then, every day was a struggle to simply survive, with the spectre of the workhouse a very real threat.
Despite all the difficulties of bringing up a family, together with the loss of her husband in 1931, Kathleen Dayus, through nothing less than hard work and sheer determination, made a success of her life. Eventually, by 1937 she had become the owner of her own enamelling business.
It is, however, for the writing in her later years that Kathleen Dayus is best and most fondly remembered. The first of her five books, “Her People”, was published in 1982 and retells just how difficult life was growing up in the streets of the Jewellery Quarter in the early part of the twentieth century. A line from the opening page of the book enforces this: “Yes, this is where I was born in 1903 and the poor people who struggled to live until that struggle killed them were my people.”
Exactly one hundred and fifteen years since her birth, the influence of Kathleen Dayus is still seen and felt throughout the Jewellery Quarter. To this day reference is still made to “Titty-bottle Park” (St Paul’s Square), a favoured haunt of not only young mothers, but also of Kathleen herself, especially during her younger years. Many people still come to the area to see parts of “Kathleen’s jewellery Quarter”: places such as the aforementioned St. Paul’s Square and the church situated within it. Also, often visited by Kathleen and members of her family, was the George and Dragon pub in Albion Street, now beautifully restored and renamed the Pig and Tail.
Kathleen Dayus died in January of 2003, just a few days short of her 100th Birthday. In 2012, not far from her birthplace in Camden St, Dayus Square together with a bronze memorial were dedicated to her memory.
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