SUNDAY MARCH 11TH
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 withBeing 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
COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.
PEOPLE TELL ME THEY HAVE DIFFICULTY POSTING. I THINK YOU NEED A GOOGLE ACCOUNT.
IF YOU HOVER OVER THE RIGHT HAND MARGIN OF THE HOME PAGE, IT WILL GIVE YOU A MENU. CLICK ON “FOLLOWERS” OR “SUBSCRIBE” AT THE BOTTOM AND SEE IF THAT WORKS