Labour History Review

Gender, Leisure and Marriage in a Working-Class Community, 1939–1960

Labour History Review (2009), 74, (2), 185–198.

Abstract

This article examines the extent to which married women were able to negotiate independent leisure outside the home. It explores the constraints women faced and any strategies used to resist restrictions imposed by their husbands. The evidence is gathered from an industrial community in East Cleveland, an area dominated by the iron and steel industries and in particular ironstone mining. It is focused on the years between 1939 and 1960, a period in which the ideology of companionate marriage was gaining widespread acceptance. Oral testimony confirms the expectation that marital partners should spend some leisure time together outside the home. However, the ideology of companionate marriage appears to have put some women under added pressure to abandon independent leisure for the sake of their marriage and its public profile. Indeed, it is clear that most women had less access to independent leisure than their male partners. Some women accepted this as natural; others tried to influence their access to leisure with a variety of strategies and with varying degrees of success. Ultimately the majority valued the stability of their marriage and its public profile more than the right to independent leisure.

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Author details

Williamson, Margaret