Nella Last, née Nellie Lord, was a housewife in Barrow-in-Furness, England, at the outbreak of World War II. Her husband was a shopfitter and joiner, and they had two sons. Nella volunteered for the Mass Observation Archive, which had been set up in 1937 to record the views of ordinary British people, and keep a record of everyday life. Nella began keeping a detailed diary -- she headed the first entry Housewife, 49 -- as her town, an important shipbuilding center, became a target for German bombing during the Blitz.
Her own house was among those hit. Nella also worked for the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) and the Red Cross. Her remarkable account of the lives of ordinary families coping with the war on the home front was compiled into Nella Last's War: A Mother's Diary, 1939-45, and published in 1981; it was republished in 2006 as Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife 49. A second volume of her diaries, Nella Last's Peace: The Post-war Diaries of Housewife 49, was published in 2008, and a third volume, Nella Last in the 1950s, appeared in October 2010. The wartime diaries were dramatized by ITV in 2006 as Housewife, 49.