AN American professor, born and raised in Accrington, has put pen to paper to tell the story of his mum’s hard working life.

Doris Hargreaves, nee Kenyon, recently died in Accrington Victoria Hospital, aged 93 and her son, Andrew, an award-winning author in the field of education, has acknowledged the sacrifice and care to others she gave throughout her years.

He said: “The point is not that my mum had an especially extraordinary life; but that she gave meaning to the underrated virtue of sacrifice.

“She cared for others throughout her life by how hard she worked and what she gave up for them.

“My mum’s working class life also perhaps expresses something about the social history of the town and the region, as well as its people.”

Doris was born in a commode at the back of a sweet shop in Accrington, two years after the end of The Great War.

The eldest child, she was named after a nurse who saved her father William’s life during the flu pandemic which followed the return of the gassed and wounded from the trenches.

When she wasn’t at school, Doris scrubbed trays and tins in the back of their two-up, two-down terrace house and looked after her two younger brothers, Raymond and Stanley, while her mother, May, ran a bakery in their front room, until it had to close during the Depression.

Doris left school at 14 and went to work in factories – weaving, munitions and carpet sweepers – for a few shillings a week.

In one job, she had to twist wire coils by hand for the springs which operated at the ends of weaving looms. When the bleeding on her palms caused her to protest, she was ‘given her cards’.

She arrived at the Employment Exchange to find that her boss had called ahead, advising them not to give her work because she had been fired for ‘insubordination’.

“I prayed every day for that factory to burn down,” Doris often recalled. Uncannily, a few months later, it did!

In the middle of the Second World War, Doris married Albert Hargreaves at very short notice when he received his papers for posting overseas.

The youngest son of a clogger, he was a pharmacist with a grammar school education and rose quickly to being a Sergeant Major in the Royal Artillery.

Doris gave birth to their three boys, Peter, Colin and Andrew and first raised them in another rented, terrace house round the corner from her mum.

Wartime might have been over, but with rationing and austerity, life didn’t get any easier. The front room floor was a threadbare carpet square on green linoleum.

The stone-flagged kitchen was separated from the front by an old army blanket dad had brought home when he was demobbed.

Under the palls of smoke and ash that covered the town for all but two weeks a year when the factories closed for their annual holidays, keeping the house clean was a constant fight against dirt and drudgery.

By the mid 1950s, the welfare state brought benefits to the Hargreaves family, as it did to many others.

They may only have been able to afford to move house on the back of the coalman’s lorry, but going up on to the council house estate where they had been offered a home gave them a bathroom, a garden and privet hedges.

Typical of many post-war parents, Doris and Albert wanted opportunities for their children.

School uniforms, complete with caps, were always spick and span. And the annual holiday was the great treat for which Doris scrimped and saved all year – a week in Southport, three holidays in a row in Fleetwood, and most exotically, one overseas excursion to the Isle of Man!

None of this was bought on ‘tick’. “If you can’t pay for it, you shouldn’t have it,” Doris always said.

So, she worked two and sometimes three jobs – child-minding, cleaning and shopwork – to acquire those extras and make ends meet.

In 1960, Doris and her family had a stroke of luck. Albert won £500 in a newspaper competition, so they bought a small terrace house with a deposit from the winnings, and a new three-piece moquette suite to go in it.

Things were looking up. There was even talk of buying a second hand car for runs out to the seaside. In Prime Minister Harold MacMillan’s words, they had never had it so good.

A little over a year later, though, when Doris was just 42, dad had his third and fatal heart attack and it was a very hard knock to take.

But she picked herself up,dragged herself back into work and, in the end, as she always did, stoically held everything together.

When they were young, Doris had always advised her boys to leave Accrington as soon as they could. One by one, from the 60s to the 80s, they took her advice and emigrated, in turn, to Canada.

The big compensation was the annual flight to Canada and later the United States to be with her children and grandchildren. In more than 30 overseas trips, she saw Toronto, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and, her favourite, British Columbia.

Years of colour photographs capture the joy of these family visits.

Added Andrew: “Doris Hargreaves was a strong and tireless woman. As a teenager she could dive off the top board in the public swimming baths. She could still do cartwheels into her 60s.

“She had wanted to be a nurse and was desperate to be a Land Girl during the war. But her time, her class and her father wouldn’t allow it.

So, as many women like her, she put her strength and independence into her family, her housework and her friends instead.

“Doris lived a long and honourable working class life of honesty and hard work that made the lives of many others around her undeniably brighter. We will all miss her greatly.”