Nella Last (née Lord) born 4th October 1889 and died 22nd June 1968 was a housewife who lived in Barrow-in-Furness, England. She wrote a diary for the Mass-Observation Archive from 1939 until 1965 making it one of the most substantial diaries held by M-O. An edited version of the two million words or so she wrote during World War II was originally published in 1981 as ‘Nella Last’s War: A Mother’s Diary, 1939-45’ and republished as ‘Nella Last’s War: The Second World War Diaries of ‘Housewife 49” in 2006. A second volume of her diaries, ‘Nella Last’s Peace: The Post-war Diaries of Housewife 49’, was published in October 2008.
The daughter of local railway clerk John Lord, Nella was married, on 17 May 1911, to William Last, a shopfitter, and had two sons, Arthur and Cliff. During the war she worked for the Women’s Voluntary Service (W.V.S) and the Red Cross. The wartime diaries were dramatised by Victoria Wood for ITV in 2006 as Housewife, 49, which is how she headed her first entry at the age of 49.
Her published writing describes what is was like for ordinary people to live through World War Two, reports on the bombing (including her own home) of Barrow in April 1941 and includes her reflections on a wide range of contemporary issues. Some critics, such as Edward Blisham, see a proto-feminism that anticipates the post-war women’s movement in her account of her own marriage and her liberation from housewifery through her war work.
Her son Clifford Last (1918–1991) emigrated to Australia following the war and went on to become a noted sculptor, with works displayed at the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery.