A Woman’s Place: 1910-1975 – Ruth Adam

A densely written but rather interesting historical overview of women’s lives in England from close to the beginning of the twentieth century to 1975. The author has done an excellent job of weaving the various strands of life together to create a more complete picture, and covers laws that are put into effect that affect women and their lives, ranging from the right to vote in 1919, all the way up to the new divorce laws of the 1970’s.

As the book says:

‘A woman born at the turn of the century could have lived through two periods when it was her moral duty to devote herself, obsessively, to her children: three when it was her duty to society to neglect them; two when it was right to be seductively feminine and three when it was a pressing social obligation to be the reverse; three separate periods in which she was a bad wife, mother and citizen for wanting to go out and earn her own living, and three others when she was an even worse wife, mother and citizen for not being eager to do so.’

Taking into consideration the two World Wars that happened, the first creating a “mutilated society” that had ripple effects right up until the Second World War, I really learned a lot about English history as although I did grow up and go to a posh school in England, our teachers were more focused on covering the rest of the world’s history as opposed to that of the UK. We may have done the Suffragettes and I know we did Bonnie Prince Charlie and then the Native American history in the US (for some reason), but not much of the actual UK stuff. So a lot of the information in Adam’s book was quite new for me, and helped me to understand what my mum, grandma, great grandma et al went through in terms of having rights (or not, as the case may be).

What I found really interesting was the fluctuation of women’s rights depending on how the country was doing or if it was dealing with a war (either at that time or the aftermath). When the country needed munitions workers because all the males had entered the military, who did they call? And then when the men came home and needed employment, the women were encouraged to give up their jobs and go back to the homes (that was the patriotic thing to do)… All rather annoying from a twenty-first century perspective, but I can not argue that I would have done any different than each of those women…

Another thing that I really liked about the book was the well attributed sources and the bibliography leading, of course, to more reading.

Now this would have made history interesting for me at the High School. This was relevant. This was real. This was me.

This was an Inter-Library Loan book. Hooray for Texas libraries!

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