In order to reach the truth, you have got to tell the truth.

Photo: Mrs Ada next to her husband Alfred Lawrence (Anya) in his circus outfit in the 1930s.
Courtesy of their daughter Coca Clarke.

Strength of our Mothers documents the lives of 23 white women in interracial relationships with African and Afro-Caribbean men from the 1940s to 2000. Each women's story is told in their own voice or by their children.

Learn more about the project

  • Margaret Anne Horan

    May 1928 - Oct 1996
    A photo of Margaret Anne Horan
    My mother was ostracised and looked down on. People wouldn't talk to her.
  • Janette Murphy

    November 1941
    A photo of Janette Murphy
    She must have had a really hard time that she didn't let us know about, having us kids, but I don't ever recall her not getting out of bed, or not brushing her teeth.
  • Agnes McLardie

    April 1938
    A photo of Agnes McLardie
    I will give Mum the utmost respect; she could have had me adopted, but she kept me. She is not Catholic, so it is not guilt.
  • Marjorie (Madge) Abbey

    January 1934
    A photo of Marjorie (Madge) Abbey
    My children were my life, definitely.
  • Estelle Mary Longmore

    October 1944
    A photo of Estelle Mary Longmore
    I think that we have done a great job. We have now celebrated 52 years of marriage, which in itself, says something.
  • Pat George

    Apr 1930 - Dec 1997
    A photo of Pat George
    She was the strong one in the relationship, what she said went…
  • Victoria Sibthrope

    July 1928 - 2006
    A photo of Victoria Sibthrope
    My mother got me to believe in love.
  • Mildred Mayer

    October 1927
    A photo of Mildred Mayer
    I loved him. We had our arguments but we lasted fifty years.
  • Rita Higgins

    March 1936
    A photo of Rita Higgins
    Do I regret my marriage? I mean obviously I regret that it didn't go the way it should have done, but I got two beautiful children out of it.
  • Dorothy Steadman

    July 1930 - Aug 2017
    A photo of Dorothy Steadman
    I did the best I could.
  • Evelyn Masie Lawrence

    Mar 1926 - Aug 2020
    A photo of Evelyn Masie Lawrence
    Mum and Dad always said they didn’t have to get married.
  • May Quartey

    May 1921 - Jan 2002
    A photo of May Quartey
    She always read to us, sang to us, and she knitted our clothes.
  • Margaretha Leader

    Sep 1937 - Feb 2017
    A photo of Margaretha Leader
    She was at the centre, and everything revolved around mum.
  • Dorothy Davies

    Feb 1932 - Dec 2004
    A photo of Dorothy Davies
    Those you love don’t walk away, they walk beside you every day.
  • Ellen Forrester

    Dec 1952 - Oct 2018
    A photo of Ellen Forrester
    The only thing to compare her with is the sun. Mum gave us life, she kept us warm and she was the centre of our universe.
  • Irene Barnes

    Oct 1925 - Jul 1980
    A photo of Irene Barnes
    I have so many reasons why I really admired my Mum.
  • Sheila Jawando

    Nov 1928 - Jan 2012
    A photo of Sheila Jawando
    Mum was always there for us.
  • Avis Blakeley

    June 1957
    A photo of Avis Blakeley
    I just wanted to keep my children safe.
  • Bernadette Thompson

    Dec 1947 - Jul 2012
    A photo of Bernadette Thompson
    Always a smile, never a frown, always a helping hand when you are down.
  • Betty Sweeney

    Dec 1920 - May 1979
    A photo of Betty Sweeney
    Mam was fiercely protective of me.
  • Ann (Hilda) Blackshaw

    Aug 1939 - Jan 1988
    A photo of Ann (Hilda) Blackshaw
    If my mum was still alive, I would say ‘let me take you on holiday mum’.
  • Lily Kelly

    Jun 1926 - 1971
    A photo of Lily Kelly
    My mother was my queen.

Every picture tells a story. Here are the families' images captured over the years full of memories.

The launch

Held at HOME on May 19th 2019, 140 family members joined us for the launch event.

The event was an afternoon of performances of poetry, dance and song and a unique one-act play scripted verbatim from all the interviews bringing the lives of the mothers live to the stage for a one-off unique performance now captured on film.

Please be advised that the play that forms part of this performance reel contains offensive racist language. Such language definitely does not reflect the attitude of NBAA, the actors nor the women they portray but are the actual words that were used to abuse the mothers.

The book

This collection of stories is about love.

It is also about hidden lives, sometimes painful, sometimes heart-breaking, always important. The oral histories of relationships across the divides of race and celebrates the ways in which women sustain and support their families over time.

Like all hidden histories, these stories represent living knowledge that can inform future generations and can help us think differently about the experiences of children from interracial relationships.

Edited review by Kate Pahl

MMU Professor of Arts and Literacy

Strength of Our Mothers

ISBN 978-1-78972-129-4

Download the PDF

Hard copies can only be collected in person from:

Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre

Lower Ground Floor
Central Library
St Peter’s Square
M2 5PD

By post email

Background on the project

SOM does not fictionalise life but tells it just as we live it. Sometimes it is cruel and heart-breaking but even then, families pull on through. In many cases hardship and heartache makes the bond of family stronger, especially when Mothers stepped away from the relationship into single parenthood. Fathers too became the sole carer of their children when mothers left because they couldn’t or didn’t want to stay in the home.

Strength of Our Mothers a 2017-2019 partnership project led by National Black Arts Alliance, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

NBAA is the UK’s largest network of Black artists established in 1985 it exists to combat negative attitudes to Black arts and culture. Its heritage work in social history contributes to debates around migration, interracial marriage, and class to challenge racist narratives.

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Do you have any feedback about the book, the launch, or the project as a whole? Please let us know with the following form.

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