equality. / Grace Grandma. Feminism / mum / women



My mum (center) and her sisters. Left to right Grace, Nellie, Eva. Circa 1939

It was International Womens day last week. An event that passed by more or less unnoticed in these parts. But it got me reflecting on the changes to the status of women in my lifetime and also got me thinking who had been the most influence on my feminist approach to life.

I was brought up in the 1950’s by two loving parents, but contrary to popular myth, my mother and her three sisters did not have the traditional role of stay at home to look after the children, but all worked.  This was a  legacy from WW2 when they had been conscripted into the war effort, but also I think for economic reasons working class women have always worked. Either in the mills and factories or taking in washing at home.  Quite frankly as a child I regarded mums who stayed at home as lazy!… maybe this is where my feminist attitudes started to form.

My mum and her three sisters were all very close. All having been left alone while thier husbands went off to war, so I had a lot of contact with my aunties, particularly Grace, who had no children of her own so spoiled all us nieces and nephews. She was beautiful in both looks and temperament.

I was encouraged in education by both my parents.  No sense of inequality here, but at school there was discrimination.  Girls were not allowed to do woodwork, (which I desperately wanted to do as I regularly helped my dad with jobs) and boys were not allowed to cook. Girls  were encouraged to take up more “feminine” arts subjects rather than sciences. Even in employment, women got paid a smaller wage for exactly the same job and in some professions were expected to leave if they got married or had babies!

The came the pill in 1965, and a sexual revolution.  Germain Greer and the Female Eunuch. Which made us question where our female conditioning came from
 Women were no longer constrained by their fertility.  but even then old attitudes died hard.  I well remember going to a family planning clinic in1967, I had to pretend to be married and have written permission from my “husband” for me to get the prescription!

(Actually it is not THAT long since certain obstetricians would refuse to sterilise women if their husbands or partner had not signed the consent form)

So today, young women take  equality and certain freedoms for granted….They do not understand the discrimination we had to put up with
Being barred from certain kinds of education and training, barred from certain professions, barred from joining certain clubs, unequal pay and conditions, an expectation that our husbands job was more important than ours and an expectation that we would look after the children and our husbands as well. ( has that really changed?)

Silly things like, …my being refused entry to a nightclub on New Years Eve 1967 because I was wearing a silk trouser suit ….and no pub would ever serve me beer in a pint.  I had to have two halves!  These just reflected the attitudes of males to women’s place in society.  Today women expect to have careers and to earn an equal salary.  They expect their partners to share childcare  and housework. 

Sadly the men do not always agree or co-operate, and women are finding out about  the myth of superwomen, who cannot be the perfect mother and also work full time, somewhere, something has to give. 

But back to my influences.  No great icons shaped my view.  I just grew up with a sense of equality.  When I explored my genealogy later in life I discovered I came from a long line of strong women.  Mostly single parents who had been left by widowhood or desertion to bring up their children alone.  They did not sit back and cry but seemed to get on with life and even make a success.  So this ethos of equality and  self sufficiency was passed down through my genes.

My maternal grandmother, who brought up five children alone and survived three husbands.  1969

A rare picture from 1908 of my paternal grandmother  ( front right)  Great Great Grandmother  (bottom left.) and my Great Grandmother (centre row centre) with the other female member of the family.

But of course I must not forget my Father, who in the 1950’s was a hands on dad, loved me  unconditionally, treated me and my mum  as equals,  encouraged my  education and did not fill me with any nonsense about male superiority.

Frank and Margaret Circa1940
Both very much missed.

Love from Bolton



9 thoughts on “

  1. Grrr, I wrote a long comment that disappeared when I moved my cursor to the wrong spot on the page!Anyway – this was a lovely post, Denise. I loved seeing the photos of your ancestors and hearing about what life was like for you growing up in England. You're very fortunate to have had parents who raised you to be a strong and capable woman.I'm glad that I was able to take a woodworking class instead of a sewing class when I was in high school. I still have some of the things that I made – I'm not sure if this would be the case if I had taken sewing!


  2. I can see why you're proud of your family Denise ! And some of the discrimination that you describe still exist of course but it's nice to see the progress that has happenedAnne


  3. I did eventually take a woodworking class in 1980. Sadly my dad died suddenly aged 58 in 1978 and never saw my work, but I know he would have been proud….Like you Mary Kay I still have the pieces I made unlike the stuff I made in needlework class at school.


  4. You are indeed fortunate to have had such loving understanding parents Denise. Like yours my mother worked while bringing up my brother and me but my father was very much of the "the man is in charge and always right" school of thought. Mum's money went straight to Dad and he doled it out to her as he saw fit. Hopefully that doesn't happen so often these days, although I think we still have a long way to go!Love Janet


  5. Another evocative post, Denise! Reading your posts back to back is making me admire and like you more and more (not that I didn't already, of course!) This post made me think of the current Republican nomination process in the US and how some of the old, prejudiced attitudes towards women have come up, showing that discrimination still exists today, even in the largest, most advance nation in the world. Rick Santorum's ideas on contraception and a woman's right to choose harken back to the 1950s. Thank goodness he's stepped down as a candidate, but I fear that his backwards ideas still permeate the right wingers in the US. Unfortunately , women worldwide still have so many battles to fight. Your post helps remind us that the fight is worthwhile and leads to better things.I am luck and happy to have a hubby who is my equal in life and everything we share, good and bad. You seem to have that with Michael as well. I wish everyone was so blessed.Jo


  6. Reading this again today, I also get very emotional remembering the wonderful women in my life.Jo, when I read the accounts of the right wing, sexist, attitudes being promoted by the Republican party in the US, I can hardly believe these ideas are coming from somebody who is seriously trying to be elected as president of the USA. One of the most powerful countries in the world. It is frightening… and actually, rightly or wrongly paints a very bad picture of the US to the rest of the world.No candidate here would even dare whisper some of this outdated nonsense here. They would be considered, extreme, marginal, minority and not get any of the women's vote.


  7. Yes, Denise, it is indeed amazing to me that such words can still be spoken in 2012 in the most advanced nation on earth. I actually think it is shameful, as are some of the US attitudes towards medical care for their own citizens, but that is a discussion to be had over a glass of wine or cup of coffee (hopefully one day soon again in Paris, lol)Jo


  8. Pingback: POOR ME!….. | denisefrombolton

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