Jess Phillips will be known to everyone as a Labour MP (for Yardley in Birmingham) and an ardent feminist. She serves on the Opposition frontbench as Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding and during this week, which saw the tragic murder of Sarah Everard, in the House of Commons International Women’s Day debate, she read out the names of women killed in the UK where a man has been charged or convicted. This morning she has called out the Metropolitan Police over the policing of the vigil last night for Sarah Everard.
Turning to her book, Phillips’ essay, Mother, is published by The Pound Project, a Birmingham-based small publisher who produces one small book at time, crowdfunding each one. Mother is their eleventh.
Introduced by Harriet Harman, in Mother, Phillips talks about different aspects of motherhood, beginning with a short prologue explaining how Birmingham mothers are ‘moms’. She rejects the vision of mothers as sacred, of giving birth as miraculous. ‘Aligning women with the Virgin Mary is an act of control.’ She writes eloquently about loss, becoming motherless, how she became ‘matriarch of my boy-heavy family’ when her mother died when Jess was 29. The next section is a tribute to her mother Jean, and her campaign – Erin Brockovich style – to get compensation for those prescribed the drug Eraldin in the 1970s which damaged eyesight, her grandmother was one. Jean ran her campaign from their small terraced house and succeeded against the odds. She was a formidable role-model.
Jess also writes about her own experience of being a mother. It’s profoundly reassuring. She admits:
‘I am a half-decent mom, and I say this as a stellar review: I am proud to declare myself solidly mediocre.’
This is a lovely little book and if you are able to get your hands on it, (I think they’re planning a second print run), Mother is full of wisdom, told in Phillips’ inimitable style, with wit and candour, but also heart-warming reassurance.
Happy Mother’s Day.