This is Gladys’s story, one of four stories from The Sugar Girls. During the Blitz and the years of rationing, the Sugar Girls kept Britain sweet. The work was back-breakingly hard, but the Tate & Lyle factory was more than just a workplace - it was a community, a calling, a place of love and support and an uproarious, tribal part of East London.
‘Gladys changed into her new uniform. The dungarees hung loosely on her boyish frame, the crotch resting somewhere down by her knees and the backside looking like a crumpled sack waiting to be filled with potatoes. The short-sleeved blouse seemed to have been designed with a buxom matron in mind, and one with arms as thick as her legs, not a skinny, flat-chested 14-year-old. What kind of monstrous creatures worked in this Blue Room?’
In the years leading up to and after the Second World War thousands of women left school at fourteen to work in the bustling factories of London’s East End. Despite long hours, hard and often hazardous work, factory life afforded exciting opportunities for independence, friendship and romance. Of all the factories that lined the docks, it was at Tate & Lyle’s where you could earn the most generous wages and enjoy the best social life, and it was here where The Sugar Girls worked.
This is an evocative, moving story of hunger, hardship and happiness, providing a moving insight into a lost way of life, as well as a timeless testament to the experience of being young and female.
Includes Gladys’s own personal photographs of life as a sugar girl.
An authoritative and highly readable work of social history which brings vividly to life a fascinating part of East End life before it is lost forever.’ Melanie McGrath
‘Delightful, a terrific piece of nonfiction storytelling, and an authoritative and highly readable work of social history which brings vividly to life a fascinating part of East End life before it is lost forever.’ – Melanie McGrath, bestselling author of Silvertown and Hopping
‘This vivid and richly readable account of women’s lives in and around the Tate & Lyle East London works in the Forties and Fifties is written as popular social history, played for entertainment. If it doesn’t become a TV series to rival Call The Midwife, I’ll take my tea with ten sugars.’ Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
About the author
Duncan Barrett studied English at Cambridge and now works as a writer and editor, specialising in biography and memoir. He was also the editor of The Reluctant Tommy (Macmillan, 2010) a First World War memoir.
Nuala Calvi is a writer and journalist. She trained at London College of Printing and has written for The Times, The Independent, the BBC, CNN and numerous Time Out books.