After what seems like weeks of jubilee themed food and household products lining the shelves in my local supermarket, the long weekend to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Good Queen Bess is finally upon us. This has inspired me to do a bit of research and find out what life was like for my counterparts at the start of the reign of Elizabeth II .
During the war, unprecedented numbers of females had entered the work force in order to assist with the war effort. In the post war period however, employment for men was seen as a priority, so women returned to the home.
The image of the glamorous housewife was prevalent, reinforced by magazines and the new medium of television; in the UK, access to televisions rose dramatically during the fifties and many bought a set to watch the Queen’s coronation in 1953. Household appliances were marketed directly to women, as they were encouraged to dedicate their time to the home. Of course a spotless home was to be complemented by a well groomed homemaker, and a common depiction of women in the media at the time was one of femininity and glamour. There were even helpful films available, just in case women were unsure how to bathe!
This must have been a bit of a shock to the women who had got used to the relative freedom and availability of choice that the war afforded them. Not all accepted this path for themselves however, and the decade is full of examples where women quietly made progress, such as biophysicist Rosalind Franklin whose work played a crucial part in the discovery of the DNA double helix. Another notable event was Sells Ltd, a London based advertising agency, appointing Olive Hirst to be its first female managing director.