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Elizabeth Alice Ascoli

Elizabeth Alice Ascoli

Female 1878 - 1948  (~ 69 years)

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  • Name Elizabeth Alice Ascoli 
    Born Sep 1878  London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Female 
    Biography Elizabeth - the attractive one
    The eldest was a girl, bonny and intelligent, and extremely attractive - how proud my parents were of her. My mother's clever fingers added to the attraction and she was the admiration of many mothers as she was taken out in her perambulator. This was a queer contraption with three wheels with a seat for one only padded to make it easy for a child to sit in and, if I remember rightly, covered with a kind of carpet. The same vehicle conveyed all he babies up to the fourth, which was myself, and continued in the family for a few years after a more suitable one was purchased for subsequent babies.
    The family lived in Stepney until 1884 when I was born. But my father was longing for the country and they moved out to Edmonton when I was a few months old. So that my first recollection of this older sister was of a child of about seven years of age looking the picture of health, running about freely in the fields with her dark hair streaming behind her.
    Horses grazed in the field and maybe I remember, or more likely it was related to me, that one of the games these early children played was running backwards and forwards between the front and back legs of the horses, trying to do so without disturbing the animals. There were also the usual games with a ball at which Elizabeth was an expert. There was school, also commenced in Stepney, for we all started at the age of three up to the very last one.
    This lively girl made her mark at the school at Edmonton but seemed to be troublesome to the teachers, and yet a favourite. I remember her telling me that in one class she was awarded a prize of a dressed doll and her conscience smote her afterwards because she thought she had not deserved it.
    As the family grew she was expected to help more and more with looking after the younger ones and, although always a boisterous child, she became rather disgruntled because her freedom was restricted.
    My mother, having lived in town all her life, was terribly scared of the country and it began to tell on her health. She told us a tale of being frightened one night. She was coming home in the dark and heard footsteps following her. She hurried along and, arriving home breathless, ran to a window to see who it was and saw a horse pass the front gate. Another time a cow strayed into the garden and the help of the children had to be commandeered to drive it out while my mother watched from the safety of the house.
    So at last, my father had to give way and they compromised by going to Walthamstow, then a village with a few roads well-lit, shops fairly near to the house - fields being a little further off. We had lived in Edmonton possibly two, or two and a half years, for when we moved to Walthamstow my memories were becoming clear and I was realising the others in the family as separate entities.
    There was one school in Walthamstow but this was rather a distance to walk. The two elder children started there at once, but myself and a sister a little older went to a small private school run by a certain Mrs Warden and her daughter Caroline. I forget how much we had to pay, but very little I am sure, and every Saturday we were given a sweet if we had been good. This gave Elizabeth a good deal of freedom. The school being rather far off, she had her games before returning in the afternoon and was relieved of being responsible for us smaller fry. A beautiful new school was in the course of building and often we walked round to see how it was getting on. In due course it was opened and we were all transferred there.
    My memories now becoming very clear - I remember the names of all the teachers and many of the scholars. Elizabeth, however, was still elusive to me as she was in the Girl's Department and I was still an infant. I often saw her in the centre of quite a large group of girls evidently the leader of their games and their pranks and often was in trouble. These were all hush-hush at home.
    At this time too she was a voracious reader and all kinds of books were taken to her bedroom. I often tried to see what they were but could never find them, the only ones left about were books like Fox's Book of Martyrs and Pilgrims' Progress, but I am certain these were not what she was reading, so I presume for obvious reasons she hid the ones she devoured so avidly and left the other's about. My mother wouldn't notice for she was not bookish, but my father was always very strict as to our reading matter and novels were forbidden.
    I can remember, though, her gathering us youngsters round her and telling us story after story - fairy stories, mostly of the gory type, cruel step-mothers and unkind witches, which we listened to with wrapt attention and often with contented shudders.
    In the winter of 1890 we moved to the other side of the River Lea to Clapton. We were still near fields, and not too far from Epping Forest, but neither of these attracted my sister. She loved streets and houses, towns and people and was delighted with the new situation. She had to go to a school in a poorer district as there was no room in the upper classes at the nearer school where another sister and myself were able to go. Up to this time the State schools were not exactly free and for my elder sister's school the fee was 2d a week but for the other one, being in a better neighbourhood, we had to pay 3d every Monday morning. Later on this fee was dropped altogether. It was possibly the cause of many parents keeping their children away and so hindering their education.
    So, my sister was again separated from the rest of us during the day and could continue her life of freedom. However, the ever increasing family made it necessary for her to help in the home and restrictions began to gather round her and she became more and more disgruntled. She still attracted a large number of friends, often boys as well as girls. She escaped some of the chores by joining a night school which included a gymnasium in which exercises she excelled. Many were the tales she told of the other classes where she played tricks on the teachers and otherwise enjoyed herself and became the heroine of another group of girls. She went to the Sunday School belonging to the Baptist church while we younger-ones went to a Mission School which was quite near. Her friends here were also very numerous, of both sexes.
    Apparently though, she now had to work hard in the house as the many babies had drained my mother of a good deal of strength and there was no-one else to help. She was, however, approaching fourteen and it was the custom now for girls, as well as boys, to consider a career. She had made up her mind early - she was to be a teacher, nothing else would suit her. I heard my father threaten her often that if she did not work harder at school she would have to go into service. However, she passed the entrance exam and was from now on a professional.
    II
    I can see her now as she set out. How smart she looked - my mother still made her clothes. How well she walked, her head high, her arms swinging lightly at her sides and a smile on her face because she was successful at her job and people praised her everywhere.
    The training of a teacher in those days was accomplished by half-time teaching and the other half continuing the young person's education. First and third year apprentices undertook a class between them, going opposite times. So that one teacher never met the other who taught the same children the other half-time. The second and fourth year followed the same routine so that a school was running two classes with teenage teachers, often the Headmistress sitting in the classroom criticising and sometimes helping.
    If a teacher was talented in that direction it worked very well, but for those who were shy and needed more teaching as to how to set about their task it was, more or less, purgatory. If a Headteacher happened to be sympathetic toward a beginner there was a good deal might be done to alleviate this attitude, but many felt they had enough to do without and a young teacher had to shift as well as she could. Elizabeth experienced none of this frustration. From the word "go" she seemed to know exactly what was expected, and how to win the respect and goodwill of her pupils. All the way through her - apprenticeship she earned nothing but praise from the masters and mistresses with whom she worked and, although she never excelled at the academic work, on the practical side she, no doubt, showed exceptional skill.
    All this time Elizabeth was growing into an attractive woman and many a young man cast an appraising eye on her. There were several from the Church where she was now in the Y.W.'s Bible Class - first it was one then the other.
    There was one story that has always remained in my mind. There was a very good looking, well-to-do young man who used to meet her coming out of school and they would walk home, evening by evening, along the banks of the River Lea. Sometimes he would hire a boat and he would row her as far as the Sea Bridge which was a short walk from our home. From time to time I heard wonderful tales of this clever, successful escort. Then one day I heard this tale of sadness. She and he were coming home together along the path by the river when they heard shouts from the water and they could see in the distance two lads struggling in the river and an upturned boat floating away from them. Without hesitation her friend threw off his coat and dived in. He kept both of them above water until further help arrived and then he himself disappeared and was seen no more.
    All these stories of her conquests impressed me so much that I looked on her with awe and thought her everything that was wonderful. It was years before I began to suspect that perhaps there was only a small element of truth in them. There must have been something about her which while it attracted for a time, afterwards repelled. For one after another of these young men left her and became engaged to other girls, often one of her associates.
    Only one remained with her. None of us at home liked him. He often came home and my father gave grudging consent to him accompanying her on walks and other trips, but not one was happy about the friendship. Then even this collapsed. The cause of it, of course, was hushed up, just little scraps of information drifted about here and there, like wisps of hay which fly from the hands of farm labourers building haystacks. I pieced these together and gathered that he had got a girl into trouble. I remember, at first, she hastily became busy getting clothes and other goods together saying she was getting married. Then we heard he was marrying someone else, so we concluded that the girl's father had insisted that he married his daughter and this brought the whole matter to a conclusion.
    Elizabeth had now passed what was known as the Queen's Scholarship but, as my father's increasing ill-health had caused him to resign his post at the Guildhall she could not go to training college as she had wished, although a friend of my feather's promised to advance the money which was to be repaid out of her income when she began teaching afterwards. I know my parents gave careful thought to this suggestion, but life held such uncertainties, and there were seven others of us growing up - one having died at the age of nine - that they decided the risk was too great. There existed, also, such a horror of getting into debt that this may have gone a long way toward the making of this decision.
    However it was quite easy to get a post as uncertificated teacher in those days and this she did. Not a very lucrative post after four years of apprenticeship, fifty five pounds for the first year was awarded and one hundred pounds for the second year and during these years one had to work hard for an examination each year - the same examination as taken by those fortunates in a teacher training college and, after passing these, one was designated untrained certificated teacher always at a lower salary than those who had gone to college, with scarcely any chance of promotion.
    Well, I remember the first school she was sent to at the age of eighteen. It was in one of the poorest and roughest part of East London and the Headmistress said no teacher would stop in that class of unruly girls. Her anger at seeing one as young and inexperienced being sent to such a class is indescribable - she just raved. But Elizabeth felt this to be a challenge. She knew she was a teacher and she rose to the occasion and decided she would tackle the job. She described to me that first morning. The girls all shouted with laughter when they saw her and one of them immediately climbed out and sat on the window sill. Elizabeth just told her quietly to come in and sit down, and, of course, she refused. My sister just started a lesson and soon the rest of the class settled down to it, more or less, peacefully and soon the recalcitrant one from the window seat quietly came in and sat in her place. No notice was taken and no remark made. Apparently the teacher was quite indifferent as to whether she was in or out. Of course this was not the end of the trouble but as the days went by teacher and scholars were on good terms with one another.
    Unfortunately the Head had written off in great haste, and in high dudgeon, to the Authorities concerned and after a month Elizabeth received a letter telling her to report to another school. This again displeased the Head very much, but there was nothing she could do about it as another had been appointed in her place. However, she let Elizabeth know how pleased she had been with her work. and how she regretted having written the letter in such haste, and gave her good wishes - for success in her work.
    The next school she was sent to she stayed for the rest of the time she was registered as uncertificated and when after two years she had passed each annual examination the London School Board, as it was then known, would no longer employ her as she was designated "untrained." She applied for a vacancy in a Walthamstow school and obtaining it remained as a teacher in that Borough until her retirement in 1939 at the age of sixty. She was always highly thought of as a teacher and made many friends. She took a pride also helping those who found teaching difficult at first, gave them confidence until they were able to maintain the necessary order in the classroom. This was very often a young teacher's greatest difficulty.
    Her capacity for friendship was very great, but something always went wrong with her men friends so that she remained unmarried. With her own sex she was very successful and persistent, so that in her old age she had still retained the friendships of her adolescent days and in her last illness several of them came to see her. She was made welcome in their homes and they were always made welcome in ours by my mother. There was one curious thing about it I never got to know any of these friends, except by sight. Possibly it was my fault entirely for I was inclined to remain aloof, but I was never invited to join the circle, as it were, and in later life they all declared they did not remember me at all. 
    III
    The years were slipping by and Elizabeth's character was changing. Undoubtedly she should have married and even when well over middle age she formed friendships with men but none of them ever ripened into matrimony, though some seemed to go very near to it. It must have been this which embittered her. She became irritable and bad tempered in the latter years and all except her former friends, who still remained faithful, seemed to rather shun her company. She became very difficult to live with and I still felt the impact of her dominating will.
    We had, by now, moved back to Walthamstow as we were both teaching in schools there, and all attended the Baptist chapel and were workers there. My sister then became constant companion to my mother and, for some reason which I could never fathom, my mother often said to me,
    "You must always take care of Elizabeth."
    Of course I gave my consent, although it seemed much more likely that Elizabeth would take care of me. It was at this time that she had almost her last love affair. She became deeply attached to a man who was about her age and a bachelor. She confided in me about this more than she had ever done before and I often found her on her knees as though she was beseeching God to bring about the marriage of which she was still uncertain. She even said to me that if he failed her, she would never trust a man or God again. One day his marriage was announced to someone else. She was like a mad-thing and was ill for sometime afterward. The strain had broken her nerve. From that time on she was a confirmed neurotic and complained of all kinds of pains, saw doctors continually who sent her to specialists who spoke to her kindly but suggested no treatment. However she looked well, and walked quickly and still cycled, and was never absent from her school work. The one thing she really suffered from was a terrible migraine which was so furious, while it lasted, that she was prostrated with pain.
    At last the time came for her to retire from her school work and we took a small cottage in the country in which the two of us lived as mother had now died. Her migraine was reduced somewhat, but she became more and more neurotic. Like mother, she did not like the country and we soon had to move to town, but this time near the sea. Very perceptibly, now her mind was becoming vague. We divided the responsibility of the house between us. I undertook the housekeeping part and she looked after the fabric, curtains, bed linen, repairs etc. to both of which we contributed an equal amount monthly. I remonstrated now and again about not being consulted as to her purchases for the house, but she always maintained she must have a free hand. There came a time however when nothing seemed to be spent on renovations at all and I pointed out one or two things which were urgently needed. She said there was no money with which to buy them. I let it go for another month and when I laid down my contribution said,
    "Now, that added to yours will buy what is needed."
    She took the money and still protested that there was not enough. Then I suggested that I look at the book in which she kept the account and we would go through it together. After a tussle she consented. Then I discovered what was wrong. All the items of expenditure were put on the debit side correctly but for five months nothing had been added to the credit side. We quickly remedied this and the required adjustments made.
    During the day she often did small items of shopping for me and I often found discrepancies in the change or, sometimes, a pound note was taken out and no change brought back at all. So without her knowledge I went to the shops we mostly frequented and asked them to see that she took up the money they gave her and to see that all the goods were put in her basket, and all went well. However, I could see that her physical powers were failing, as well as her mental, and urged her to see a doctor. Her reply was that she had seen enough of doctors and none of them did her any good. I also tried to persuade her to rest more as she still rose at seven and retired about eleven. Even this was of no avail. Until one morning she staggered into my bedroom at seven o'clock and asked if I would get the early morning tea. I helped her back to bed and, tucking her in, said I was sending for a doctor immediately. When the doctor came she said she was very ill and could not readily tell what was the matter because the whole body was so tired, and suggested that she left it for a week. I was to keep her in bed and give her as much good food as she could take and then she would be able to tell better.
    It was then the beginning of October and the weather was fine and warm with only just a faint hint of the chill winds of autumn. She lay getting weaker and weaker until, at the end of March, her life ended.
    As I look back now on her life, I think of it, with pity. It was so full of promise. She had a wonderful gift of friendship, a lively interest in all around her, yet something always failed her. I believe if she had married she would have been better as she loved children, although a bit domineering with them. She tried so hard to make everyone love her and often succeeded. Yet I myself made no headway with her. It always seemed that she was jealous of me, yet what there was for her to be envious about I could never tell.  [1
    Occupation Teacher 
    Residence London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Died 22 Mar 1948  London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried South End on Sea, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Sutton Road Cemetery, Grave No. 17904 Plot U.
    Person ID I6273  Blank Family
    Last Modified 27 Oct 2010 

    Father Mordecai Marcus Ascoli,   b. 19 May 1848, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 23 Oct 1901, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 53 years) 
    Mother Jane Elizabeth Palmer,   b. 1852, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Mar 1929, London, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Married 1874  London, England Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F4846  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - Sep 1878 - London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsResidence - - London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 22 Mar 1948 - London, England Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - - South End On Sea, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    Ascoli Marcus and Jane Family
    Ascoli Marcus and Jane Family
    At least one living or private individual is linked to this item - Details withheld.
    Elizabeth Ascoli
    Elizabeth Ascoli

  • Sources 
    1. [S176] Memoirs of Alice Ascoli 1884 - 1965, Alice Ascoli.


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