Women drinking out in Britain since the early twentieth century

Author: David W. Gutzke

This is the first book about women’s advance into the man’s world of pub, club and beerhouse that examines drinking habits covering a century and more. Currently, historians view enduring changes in women’s drinking habits as a product of the last half of the twentieth century. Our present understanding of women’s drinking in the first half of the century is based on uncertain assumptions and limited statistical evidence. Scholars have ignored critical differences between pubs and beerhouses which shaped drinking habits. In estimating the proportion of women frequenting interwar licensed premises, scholars rely heavily on statistics from York, Bolton and London without scrutinizing their validity. Overlooking the lounge, a gender-neutral room introduced into interwar improved pubs, likewise creates misunderstanding. Women first began entering drink premises during World War I, and Progressive brewers protected and enlarged their numbers building or rebuilding reformed pubs with wider amenities, interiors without partitions and the lounge as a separate room. New drinking norms reinforced the image of middle-class restraint and respectability. Wine bars targeting professional women appeared from the mid-1970s, but women remained uninterested in drinking beer or frequenting pubs save for the decade from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Domestic drinking, already popular, soared from 1990 and reached nearly half of total sales. Women’s public drinking habits were revolutionized in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Female-friendly chains, style bars, clubs and wine bars gave women greater choices than traditional masculine boozers, which steadily contracted in numbers. Wine selections widened, notably from the New World, food became common and gay bars multiplied.

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‘Both for the context it provides for local research and for its detailed and readable account of a key area of social history, this book is warmly recommended.'
Paul Jennings
Local Historian 47, No. 2
April 2017

‘Riding a rising tide of recent research on women in alcohol history, David Gutzke's Women Drinking Out provides an expansive, innovative and occasionally provocative overview of female public drinking (and the lack thereof) across the twentieth century. Exhaustively researched and passionately written, it attempts to both re-evaluate women's role in pubs in the first half of the twentieth century and provide a historical perspective on female disillusionment with traditional drinking venues from the 1950s onwards.'
Richard Robinson, University of Helsinki
Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, Vol. 29

‘Women Drinking Out in Britain offers a carefully researched and for the most part convincingly argued account of how the alcohol industry has responded to women as customers. Gutzke's efforts to address the post-war period, so far largely neglected by historians of women and alcohol, make it a particularly valuable and timely contribution, as does his attention to the striking similarities between drunkenness in Edwardian England and present-day patterns of 'binge drinking'. He impressively crafts a background against which researchers can begin to bring in the voices, understandings and experiences of the women who have lived through and navigated some of the changes described.'
Laura Fenton, University of Manchester
Women's History Review

‘The best overall investigation into the twentieth century British pub that this reviewer has read.'
Dr. Tim Holt (Royal Society)
Journal of the Brewery History Society
December 2015

‘There is much material here, both textual and visual, to critically engage with in the ongoing project of investigating the ways that alcohol has shaped not only lived experiences but also gendered ideologies and built environments.'
Julia Skelly, Concordia University
Contemporary British Review 29: 569-70
January 2016

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