1960s Housewives: Content or Unconsciously Oppressed?

This post is really just me thinking out loud, as I try to work through one of the research questions with which I’m grappling at the moment: were Irish housewives in the 1960s content, or were the unconsciously oppressed? Thinking about it is leading me into the realms of philosophical debate.

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Single Women in the 1960s

Cinemas are currently showing the trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby, the third instalment in the franchise which will be released later this year. Renée Zellweger has reprised the role of Bridget Jones, the woman who popularised the term ‘singleton’. Before I read Helen Fielding’s novels, I can’t honestly say that I’d previously heard the term ‘singleton’. Without thinking about it too much, I’d accepted that the word was the linguistic creation of Fielding. So I was more than surprised when I recently read William B. Faherty’s 1965 book, Living Alone: a Guide for the Single Woman  and found ‘singleton’ listed as one of the terms used to describe unattached women.

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Sex Anxiety in 1960s Ireland

She [Kathleen] could be fiercely passionate in their love-making, clutching his face between her hands or forcing his head back with a masculine kiss. When he embraced her he would often feel her hands wild and cruel about his neck and hair. Then she would hate Hugh as the cause of her passion and loathe herself. For days afterwards she would talk and talk religion without allowing him to touch her … He became insanely jealous of the power of the church over her. It all led to a bitter quarrel.

I’m in Galway at the moment to view the John McGahern papers at NUIG Archives. Reading the above extract from McGahern’s unpublished novel The End or The Beginning of Love, I was reminded of the many discussions of sex anxiety in the women’s magazines from the 1960s I’ve been researching.

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Special issue of Women’s History

Back in July 2014, Jennifer Evans and I organised Perceptions of Pregnancy: From the Medieval to the Modern, a three-day international conference. Arising out of that conference, we guest edited a special issue of Woman’s History, the journal of the Women’s History Network (WHN), which was published today. Continue reading “Special issue of Women’s History”

Modern Wife, Modern Life Exhibition One Year On

L to R: National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library.
L to R: National Print Museum, dlr LexIcon, Wexford Town Library, Westport Library.

Just over one year ago, Modern Wife, Modern Life: an Exhibition of Women’s Magazines from 1960s Ireland opened at the National Print Museum in Dublin (1 July – 30 August 2015). Since then, it has gone on to visit dlr LexIcon in Dún Laoghaire, Wexford Town Library, and Westport Library in Mayo. Leaving Ireland this summer, the exhibition travels next to the UK. Keep an eye on the exhibition website for details of venues and dates.

While the exhibition was on display at the various locations, I organised a series of related events. I gave curator’s tours at the National Print Museum and, in conjunction with the excellent Press Cafe, we held a 1960s cake afternoon. At dlr LexIcon, I was joined by author Lorna Sixsmith and we discussed expectations of marriage in 1960s Ireland; you can find the podcast here. And I spoke on International Women’s Day at Wexford Town Library about feminist themes in the magazines. Continue reading “Modern Wife, Modern Life Exhibition One Year On”