8th July 2017
First Picture: Wrap Round Apron
Second Picture: One bar electric fire.
Third Picture: Early Washing Machine
Had this sent to me recently, was this your Mum?
The 1950s Housewife
The life of the average married woman in the 1950s was very different from that of today’s woman. This was the age of respectability and conformity. Very few women worked after getting married; they stayed at home to raise the chil-dren and keep house. The man was considered the head of the household in all things; mortgages, legal documents and bank accounts. Only the family allow-ance was paid directly to the mother. Should a woman find herself in a loveless or violent marriage, she was trapped; she had no money of her own and no ca-reer.
It was still unusual for women to go to university, especially working class women. Most left school and went straight into work until they married. Sec-ondary schools - even grammar schools - prepared girls for this life: lessons were given in cookery, household management, darning, sewing and even how to iron a shirt properly. Girls were trained to look after their husband, their children and the house.
The house itself was very different from that of today. There was no central heating; the downstairs rooms were heated by coal fires and then later, after the Clean Air Acts of 1956 and 1968, by coke or gas fires. Upstairs the heating was provided by paraffin stoves and electric fires. During the winter night-time routine was hot water bottles in the beds and undressing downstairs in the warm. Thick dressing gowns and slippers were essentials. Every home had a coal bunker from where the coal was taken by coal scuttle into the house.
In the kitchen, fridges were becoming more common although freezers were unheard of. It wasn’t until the early 1960s that local shops started stocking fro-zen foods such as frozen peas and fish fingers. These were purchased and cooked straight away as most people could not store them. Many people had only the pantry with its cold shelf, where butter, milk, cheese etc. was stored.
Shopping for food in the 1950s was done every day as storing fresh food was difficult. The housewife would visit the baker, the butcher, the greengrocer and the grocer individually, carrying all her shopping home in a basket. She would pride herself on budgeting and keeping within the weekly allowance that she would receive from her husband.
Monday was washing day in most households. If you were lucky enough to have a washing machine, it would be a twin-tub with mangle on top. This had to be filled from the tap. After the clothes had washed they were lifted out of the hot water with large wooden tongs, fed through the mangle the whole kitchen would fill with steam as first the whites were washed and then the col-oured clothes as the water cooled. In the winter or when it rained, clothes were hung on clothes horses or airers around the fire or in the kitchen where it was warm. On other days clothes were pegged out to dry on clothes lines with wooden pegs.
Most households had a vacuum cleaner and a cooker. Entertainment was pro-vided by the wireless or gramophone and more and more people were acquir-ing televisions. These were rented, not owned. All television programmes were in black and white and there was only one channel.
Clothes were often homemade, either sewn or knitted. Knitted items when out-grown were re-cycled by being unravelled and re-knitted into something else. When collars on shirts became frayed, they were unpicked, turned inside out and sewed back on. All buttons and zips from old clothes were saved and socks and stockings were darned.
Dinner would be on the table ready and waiting for the man of the house on his return from work. Housework and the care of children was considered wom-an’s work so the man would expect the house to be clean and tidy, meal ready, children fed and washed and his clothes all ready for the next day at work.
There was a succession of callers to the 1950s house. These would include the rag and bone man who would mend your pots and pans when the bottoms went through. There was also the ‘pop man’ from whom you would buy lemonade, dandelion and burdock. Alcoholic drinks could be bought from the off-licence, often part of the local pub; you would return the bottles in exchange for a few pence. The milk man came daily and delivered your milk to your doorstep. The local shops would also deliver your groceries, bread and meat, the delivery boys using bicycles to make their rounds. The dustbin men carried the metal dustbins on their backs from the back door to the cart and back again.
For the 1950s housewife there was no need to go the gym; her day-to-day jobs kept her physically active. She walked to the shops and took the children to school every day on foot; the housework she did was very labour-intensive without gadgets and there were no convenience foods or fast food outlets. Sweets and plain crisps were treats rather than everyday foods.
The 1950s housewife had been prepared both at school and at home for her role in life; she took pleasure and pride in looking after her home and family to the best of her ability. However on the other side of the coin, she didn’t have a career outside the home and she had no income of her own, which left her de-pendent on her husband.
Best of times or worst of times? Bit of both it appears.
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On this day 8th July 1960-1965
On 08/06/1960 the number one single was Cathy's Clown - Everly Broth-ers and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Sunday Night at the London Palladium (ATV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Bing Crosby presented with a platinum disc by Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for estimated sales of 200 million records.
On 08/07/1961 the number one single was Runaway - Del Shannon and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Labour Party Political Broadcast (all channels) and the box of-fice smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to be-coming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 08/07/1962 the number one single was Come Outside - Mike Sarne with Wendy Richard and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
08/06/1963 the number one single was From Me To You - The Beatles and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Martin Luther King denounces JFK's civil rights policies.
On 08/07/1964 the number one single was House of the Rising Sun - Ani-mals and the number one album was Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Room at the Top (ITV) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division One champions
On 08/07/1965 the number one single was I'm Alive - Hollies and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.