Contented housewives, glamorous women, jive-mad teenagers – all are common figures in popular perceptions of 1950s Britain. But what more did it mean to be a girl or woman in the fifties? And what are the implications of this history for understanding post-war Britain?
Women in Fifties Britain explores the lived experience of girls and women, and the way in which their story has been told. Crossing boundaries – disciplinary, conceptual and thematic – and drawing creatively on new and established sources, it extends and enriches the terrain of women’s history. Diverse groups of women come into view, including farmer’s wives, university-educated women, activist housewives, working mothers, Jewish refugees, girls ‘at risk’ and private secretaries. Revealing that their private, public and professional lives were central to reshaping society, the collection engages with the legacy of World War II, and with questions about the distinctiveness of the 1950s. Embracing emotion, labour, gender, class, race, sociability, sexuality and much more, the authors offer penetrating exploration of established and new categories of historical analysis. Placing the politics of gender at the heart of Britain’s reconstruction, this engaging and important collection re-visions 1950s Britain and the women that made it.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Women’s History Review.
Introduction: Revisioning the History of Girls and Women in Britain in the Long 1950s Penny Tinkler, Stephanie Spencer and Claire Langhamer
1. Teetering on the Edge: portraits of innocence, risk and young female sexualities in 1950s’ and 1960s’ British cinema Janet Fink and Penny Tinkler
2. ‘Nothing gets her goat!’ The Farmer’s Wife and the Duality of Rural Femininity in the Young Farmers’ Club Movement in 1950s Britain Sian Edwards
3. Women, Marriage and Paid Work in Post-war Britain Helen McCarthy
4. Taking Work Home: the private secretary and domestic identities in the long 1950s Gillian Murray
5. Feelings, Women and Work in the Long 1950s Claire Langhamer
6. Cosmopolitan Sociability in the British and International Federations of University Women, 1945–1960 Stephanie Spencer
7. Special Relationships: mixed-race couples in post-war Britain and the United States Clive Webb
8. Belonging and ‘Unbelonging’: Jewish refugee and survivor women in 1950s Britain Angela Davis
9. What Do Women Want? Housewives’ Associations, Activism and Changing Representations of Women in the 1950s Caitríona Beaumont