Nora Harding was an overworked mother of eight children, who appeared in Series 2 Episode 6. She is portrayed by Sharon Small.
Nora Harding was a mother to eight children, who was constantly under stress because her husband was a dock worker who wasn't always guaranteed shifts, thus confining the family to poverty. Because of the restraints around contraception, Nora did not have access to free or reliable birth control (either tubal ligation or condoms, as the birth control pill was not offered to the public yet) and thus had eight children, relatively close in age. Although Nora is constantly in a state of worry and exhaustion, she does love her children and husband more than anything.
Upon finding out she was pregnant with her ninth child, Nora found she could not stand the thought of keeping it, so she sought out Mrs Pritchard, a "herbalist" to give her a concoction that would give her a miscarriage. The money to pay for this caused much worry between the parents, but it was the only option. However, the drink did not work, and Nora began to feel fetal movement.
Worried, Nora made an appointment with the clinic and was examined by Nurse Lee, who revealed she was 17 weeks pregnant. Naive and oblivious to the idea that a woman could not at all be happy or excited at the surprise of a baby, Nurse Lee tried to assure Nora that most mothers "usually come around to the idea". Angry, Nora snaps and says most mothers don't have eight children already, with the youngest just a year old.
Nora seeks out the herbalist outside her home, screaming that she is a thief and criminal for not giving her the abortion she wanted. After a snide remark on how Nora should keep her legs closed so as not to find herself pregnant, Nora attacked and the two women rolled around on the ground until Nora's husband Bill arrived and stopped them. He asked her what she was doing, and tearfully, she points at the herbalist and says "Ask her what she didn't do!"
Later that night, in their tiny two bedroom flat, Nora and Bill talk about their situation. Bill promises that they can manage with the new baby coming, though Nora knows they can't. It is revealed that both Bill and Nora wanted Mrs Pritchard's potion to work because they can "hardly feed" their eight children. Bill tries to stay optimistic, but Nora breaks down in tears, saying they'll "have another one and another one, until I dry up or throw meself out that window".
The next day, Nurse Lee arrives on a home visit to the Harding household, finding that in the entire building, only the Hardings remain. The building is all but condemned, rats roaming the halls with only one bathroom. When asked why the family hasn't been rehoused like everyone else, Nora explains that because there are 10 of them, they must live in a four bedroom flat or else they are "legally overcrowded" and there are no four bedroom flats. Not to be deterred, Jenny assures Nora that she will be booked into the Maternity Home where she will get a good rest when the baby comes.
Nora admits to the nurse that she doesn't want any more children, and, uncomfortable, Jenny tells her that after the baby's born she can get contraceptive advice. Nora explains she and her husband have tried abstaining from sex all together to prevent unwanted pregnancy, but that they "pay for that in other ways". Suddenly, Nora's youngest son begins to scream in his pram, and the two women discover that a rat has crawled up his pram and bitten his face. Jenny asks if this has happened before, to which Nora replies "would it make any difference if it had?"
At Dr. Turner's office, after he cleans the child's wound, Nora asks him if he could arrange for her to have her tubes tied. Turner explains that they can only sterilize when it is medically necessary, to which Nora insists that it is indeed necessary because she could have another four or five children, and it would kill her. It is obvious that if the stress of carrying a child and giving birth does not kill her, the emotional strain would. Still, the answer legally remains the same.
A few nights later, when the children are tucked in bed, Nora tells her husband to go buy a bottle of gin. At once, Bill knows what she is planning. In the UK, it was a common superstition that drinking gin while in a boiling hot bath could cause a miscarriage and many women resorted to this to self abort. Bill tries to protest, fearing for his wife's health, but Nora insists. She says she will get rid of the baby if it kills her, and, breaking down once again in tears of frustration, pain and shame, if she can't she "gonna get rid of [herself]". Bill gets the gin. In the night, as Nora drinks and Bill refills the tub with more hot water, one of their sons walks in, telling his father he needs the bathroom. Bill snaps that he go, and to shut the door behind him.
The next morning at breakfast, Nora is hungover, and runs outside into the hall to vomit. When Bill comes out, she tells him she can still feel the baby moving. She tells him she's going to keep trying, though Bill says it isn't worth it.
When Jenny Lee returns a few days later for another visit, she notices an open can of Epsom Salts, which raises Jenny's suspicions that Nora is trying to get rid of the baby. When asked if she's felt the baby moving, Nora replies that she's felt "enough". Jenny then finds a very bad bruise on the side of her belly, implying that Nora has been battering herself in an effort to miscarry. Jenny then tells Nora that she's more likely to hurt herself than the baby as she's carrying on, and that to kill a baby you have to nearly kill the mother. Nora becomes defensive and tells Jenny she doesn't know anything about anything, but Jenny counters that she's a nurse, and doesn't have to experience things to know about them. Jenny says there is only one safe way to terminate a pregnancy: through surgery, that was against the law.
Bill arrives, and Jenny Lee takes her leave, cryptically telling Mr Harding not to let his wife hurt herself again. Despite this, when the nurse is gone, Bill hands Nora a package of knitting needles, a common instrument desperate women often used on themselves to cause an a miscarriage. Nora sighs, afraid that she would still remain pregnant if she did it herself, and tells Bill they have to go back to Mrs Pritchard.
Mrs Pritchard will only take her if they can give her 10 guineas, compared to the 2 guineas she charged for her herbal remedy. Bill and Nora try to figure out how to pay for the abortion, and Nora decides to sell her wedding ring and curtains, which were a gift and the only other valuable thing she owned.
The day before the Poplar Fete, Nora brings Mrs Pritchard and her teenage daughter to her home while Bill and the children are out. Mrs Pritchard tells her daughter to clear the table, cover it in a plastic sheet, and cover the windows. Upon asking for payment, and finding its sufficient, Mrs Pritchard, tells Nora to take off her underwear, and lay back on the table.
Fearful and nervous, Mrs Prtichard gives Nora a potion that will take the edge off, and then tells Nora to lay back, with her legs open. Her daughter keeps hold of Nora's legs, and begins advancing the unclean tools into Nora, causing excruciating pain, that Nora muffled with a rag. This termination caused a perforation of the uterus.
Afterward, Nora is extremely ill and in pain, but still fearfully asks if the baby will come away, and if it will live. Mrs Pritchard assures her that it won't and that she's worked up a "lovely flow of blood". Nora curls up on the bed, where she remains the rest of the night and into morning.
When Bill gets the children ready for the fete, he goes to Nora, who is so ill that even the children take notice and are concerned. Nora assures him that the procedure is working and that its what they both wanted. Bill takes the children to the fete, but once there he's still consumed with worry. He encounters Jenny Lee, who remarks she's due to see his wife in the next week, and Bill cryptically replies that she won't be needed anymore. Afraid of what Nora has done, Jenny and Sister Julienne race to Nora's flat.
The two find Nora curled up on the floor, the foetus next to her on a towel. Nora is feverish and lethargic, but still asks if the baby has come away. Quickly, Jenny Lee gets the foetus away, as Sister Julienne asks her who has done this. Nora tells her that she didn't think it would work if she did it herself. Jenny spreads a towel on the bed, and they lift Nora onto it. Sister Julienne says Nora has a fever and severe blood loss, due to the filthy instrument used on her. The Sister orders Jenny to run to the fete and to fetch Dr Turner, telling him that a woman has had a miscarriage.
Once the ambulance arrives, Jenny and the Sister remain in the flat, cleaning it so the children have no knowledge of what has transpired. Jenny expresses guilt to Sister Julienne, saying that she knew Nora wanted to get rid of it, and that she should have done something, that the system they work in should have allowed them to do something. Sister Julienne explains that the world is filled with children that parents can't afford to feed and haven't the energy to nurture and that they, as nurses, can only provide comfort and warning. Nurse Lee is still distraught, saying she believes her lack of help and warning seems to have only spurned Nora on. Sister Julienne says no matter what Jenny said, Nora would have done it anyway.
It is likely that once in hospital, Nora was given a hysterectomy. Nora was left in a coma due to septicaemia and was unlikely to recover. Her family was brought to her bedside to say goodbye. However, Nora pulled through and made a full recovery, never to conceive again.
Bill reapplied to be rehoused, and this time, the family were given a house 30 miles outside London, in green fields and fresh air, where there was enough room for all of them. The last we see of Nora is of her and her family walking in a green field towards their new home, as Jenny, in voice-over, explains that while free contraception came too late to help her, her daughters and granddaughters' lives were "forever transfigured, long after man left fleeting footprints on the moon".