What was it like for a young woman entering adult life in this decade? The author examines memoirs, archives, diaries and newspapers as well as the internet. She also talked to women: housewives, unmarried mothers, air hostesses, academics, immigrants, and debutantes about their memories. There was great hope and enthusiasm, but there was also a dark side. Social history that you just won't be able to put down.
Turn the page back to the mid-twentieth century and discover a world peopled by women with radiant smiles, clean pinafores and gleaming coiffures. A time before the Pill, when divorce spelled scandal, and bikinis caused mass alarm. In 1951 British women helped to throw out the government that had brought them the Welfare State, and elect one that would deliver full employment and a consumer boom. 'We've got everything now. I've a fridge, a washer and a television set, and that's all I want in life . . .' But were our mothers and grandmothers really so easily satisfied? 'As a girl I wanted to be a lawyer. My headmistress said it wasn't for girls . . .' In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes Virginia Nicholson reconstructs the real 1950s, through the eyes of the women who lived it. We meet factory girls and Teddy girls, students and housewives, diplomats and immigrants. We meet women who thought you got pregnant if you kissed a man. Women whose gloves matched their handbags. Femininity was for sale as never before. The dark side of the decade encompassed rampant prostitution, a notorious murder and the threat of nuclear disaster. Here is a narrative of frustration and fear - but also of beauty contests, optimism and rock 'n' roll. Step back in time - to the back-to-backs and the post-war suburbs. Here, where our grandmothers scrubbed their doorsteps, cared for their families, lived, laughed, loved and struggled. This is their story. 'Virginia Nicholson's finely judged, evocative and heartfelt book brings us the closest we have ever been to the complicated day-to-day reality of women's lives during that still controversial decade, the 1950s.' David Kynaston