This is a provocative question because of course you could say that everything has changed – but it soon became apparent that some things do stay the same.
These are some of the points the women made during our intergenerational day – many other changes become apparent as they talk about work, love, relationships and giving birth.
If you lived on your own you’re no better than you ought to be.
At least that would be the view of a lot of others if a woman had chosen to live alone in the 1950s. Now, it is seldom considered unusual. Aside from social attitudes, in the 1950s it was far more difficult for a woman to be able to afford a place of her own; and in many financial transactions, particularly those that involved an element of risk or a loan, a man’s signature would be needed. A young woman living on her own with a child in the 1950s was almost unheard of – teenagers who became pregnant were typically sent away to have their babies, often to Kendal. Many of these babies were adopted out, but not all; some women returned to their own parents with their new babies and the family made ends meet as well as they were able to.
Most of the spinsters were those who had a career – teachers, lawyers, doctors.
Marriage was certainly the norm. And in the 1950s once married, most women left their jobs. This was definitely the case when a woman became pregnant, and there was no such thing as maternity pay. Women who had lost their husbands, often through death but sometimes through divorce, did go back into work but would need to rely on family support to provide care for their children.
You wouldn’t find a woman going into the pub on her own!
In the 1940s women weren’t allowed in pubs without men; this became more relaxed but few women felt confident enough to enter a pub in women-only groups until much later. Even today, some women still feel uneasy about going to a pub alone.
Women wouldn’t drink pints!
This began when students, who could also be spotted by their Doc Martens, began to go out in the town. You could spot them because of their pint glasses.