• "The widows and orphans of servants are dying": The conflict of family in the design and application of nineteenth-century civil servant pensions

      McIlvenna, Kathleen; University of Derby (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019-04-22)
      The Post Office is a Victorian institution. There had of course been postal systems before this time and in other places but the idea that all people in all places should be connected through the mail was a new idea. In the context of this volume, the existence and development of the Post Office network matters for two reasons. Firstly, because letters connected families and kin who were not proximately resident, and they also had the capacity to make notional kinship into a functional resource. In chapters by Steven King, Cara Dobbing and Geoff Monks elsewhere in this volume it is clear that whatever the co-residential family unit might have looked like, letters were a vital mechanism for conveying information, renewing and repairing kinship bonds and giving meaning to the fictive kinship networks that are the focus of the work of Naomi Tadmor. Secondly, in order to provide this service large (and increasing) numbers of employees were needed. This inevitably means that the nature of work for Post Office was a potent force in shaping family life, the nature of family relations and (in the sense that for some employees the Post Office acted as an alternate family) the very meaning of terms such as ‘family’ or ‘kin’. Moreover, in the sense that Post Office workers rapidly became part of a wider nineteenth-century movement for employers to provide superannuation schemes, we might expect the service to have shaped the long-term planning of family life and even the likelihood of re-marriage or the timing of children leaving home.