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Women and family in England, c. 1945–2000
Author: Angela Davis

This book examines women’s experiences of motherhood in England in the years between 1945 and 2000. Based on a new body of 160 oral history interviews, the book offers the first comprehensive historical study of the experience of motherhood in the second half of the twentieth century. Motherhood is an area where a number of discourses and practices meet. The book therefore forms a thematic study looking at aspects of mothers’ lives such as education, health care, psychology, labour market trends and state intervention. Looking through the prism of motherhood provides a way of understanding the complex social changes that have taken place in the post-war world. This book will be essential reading for students and researchers in the field of twentieth-century British social history. However it will also be of interest to scholars in related fields and a general readership with an interest in British social history, and the history of family and community in modern Britain.

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Angela Davis

8 Conclusions M otherhood was a contested subject between 1945 and 2000, with mothers being both celebrated and scrutinised. Women were making their choices surrounding motherhood in a new and changing context. Those women who had children in the immediate post-war years experienced welfare reforms, falling maternal and infant mortality rates, the baby boom, and rising numbers of married women in the workforce. Further important social, cultural and demographic changes then took place from the late 190s. Growing feminist activism encouraged a reassessment of

in Modern motherhood
Abstract only
Angela Davis

change in the years that followed. In recent years historians have shown how these developments were also mediated by factors such as gender, class, region and ethnicity. This book builds upon such existing scholarship but offers new insights through its focus on motherhood. Looking through the prism of motherhood provides a way of understanding the complex social changes taking place during this time. Motherhood is an area where a number of discourses and practices meet, such as education, health care, psychology, labour market trends and state intervention. In

in Modern motherhood
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Women’s labour inside and outside the home
Angela Davis

conscious of the new demands upon women that resulted from their increasing participation in the workforce. Richard Titmuss described how the typical woman of the 1950s had completed her mothering role by the age of forty, and thought the tendency for married women to engage in paid work was a response to this. Titmuss believed it brought a new conflict for women between ‘motherhood and wage-earning.’ Proposals on how to solve these difficulties were also put forward. Criticising the current education of girls in the 1950s and 190s, which they felt did not address the

in Modern motherhood
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Family, school and antenatal education
Angela Davis

mothers, it is questionable how successfully these aims were put into practice. Indeed personal testimony indicates how ignorant and ill-equipped many women felt with regards to pregnancy, childbirth and infant care. While the importance of motherhood for women, for their children and for society was widely accepted, the processes by which women came to see themselves as mothers were largely ignored or taken for granted. This chapter will explore how and to what extent women were being prepared for motherhood, where this preparation took place and whether patterns of

in Modern motherhood
Ideals of men and women in the family
Angela Davis

7 Breadwinners and homemakers: ideals of men and women in the family D ramatic changes occurred in conceptions of motherhood and the family over the second half of the twentieth century. during the 1950s femininity was viewed as intimately associated with domesticity, both by contemporaries and in subsequent accounts. The ideal mother figure at this time was a full-time homemaker dependent upon her breadwinner husband, with two, three or four children, living within a nuclear family. In his comparative study of the St Ebbe’s and Barton regions of oxford in the

in Modern motherhood
Surveying women and the family
Angela Davis

minority families present in the country also formed a new focus for researchers. However, by the end of the century there was a move towards stressing continuities within people’s experiences of family life despite the dramatic social changes that had occurred. As well as family structure, sociologists were also interested in the  15  modern motherhood vitality of the communities they were studying. In the years before and after World War Two, the consequences of the movement of families from traditional urban neighbourhoods in city centres to new suburban estates

in Modern motherhood
Antenatal care, birth and postnatal care
Angela Davis

journals, the quality and popular press, television and, ultimately, parliament, with debate and controversy about obstetric practices.’11 By the time Reducing the Risk, a report by the department of Health and Social Security, was published in 1977 its authors could reflect on how, ‘The value and increased use of induction has been a source of discussion and controversy for some time among doctors and midwives and the general public.’12  85  modern motherhood As intimated here, running alongside the medicalisation of childbirth, was a growing criticism of such

in Modern motherhood
Felicity Dunworth

their comment is applicable to Elizabethan history plays in general. 2 Those who are represented in such plays, and, indeed, their sources, referred to by A. P. Rossiter as ‘that long line of women broken in the course of great events’, are mostly mothers. 3 The typological link between mother and state discussed in previous chapters meant that motherhood developed importance as a trope by which the dramatisation of political conflict

in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage
Domestic tragedy and city comedy
Felicity Dunworth

. Contemporary conduct books associated good motherhood with wifely duty. Potential tensions between the roles of wife and mother were addressed in such texts by confirming that a woman’s first duty was to her husband, but they also emphasised the importance of mutual love and respect in marriage. Such texts also see the role of the wife and mother in part as acting as a kind of physical signifier of her husband’s wealth, status and piety. This is, they

in Mothers and meaning on the early modern English stage