Bachelor of Arts
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Chase Clow, PhD
Sister Patricia Dougherty, OP, PhD
Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, married women, who had been such a crucial part of the British workforce during the war, returned to domestic roles. British government policy focused on relieving poverty and promoting motherhood; pregnant women received maternity benefits and mothers received a family allowance. Although historians such as Martin Pugh argued that women were happy to leave the workplace and enjoy the stability and relative ease of domestic life, women's own stories illustrate the growing frustration with a lack of choice. By examining historical and sociological research, analyzing media influences on women's attitudes towards domesticity and work, and listening to women's oral histories, a different picture emerges. In the 1944 Education Act the government introduced free secondary education and a higher school leaving age, providing the first steps towards improved education for young women. From 1948 free healthcare gave married women access to contraception and allowed them to plan the timing and number of pregnancies. Married women, no longer tied to large families and increasingly better educated, were able to explore other opportunities outside the home. By 1960 a new model of marriage and motherhood emerged, with married women staying at home when their children were small but returning to the workplace once their children entered full time school. Women were no longer tied to domestic roles.