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Title: Girls and career choice in England in the late 1950s : constructions of the female role
Author: Spencer, Stephanie Moira
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis draws together a wide variety of sources in order to explore the way in which the adult female role was presented, and may have influenced, girls making their school leaving career decisions in England in the late 1950s. Career is understood throughout the thesis to include periods of domesticity as well as periods of full-time and part-time paid employment. The thesis uses Morwenna Griffiths' Feminisms and the Self: The Web of Identity (1995) as a theoretical framework of analysis. The metaphor of the web is employed to tease out the contradictions and ambivalence inherent in expectations of women's adult lives. Themes considered within the analysis of the different chapters are: the gendered nature of autonomy and independence; notions of women's citizenship in the emergent welfare state; the relationship between constructions of a universal Woman and individual women; and women's membership of different, yet overlapping, communities. Each chapter focuses on a different area of the web of identity using a number of sources. The first archival chapter focuses on the foundation of the welfare state using the Beveridge Report and evidence submitted to the Interdepartmental Committee on Social Insurance and the Allied Services by women's organisations. It considers alternative proposals by the Women's Freedom League and the reaction of the general public through the records of the Mass Observation Archive. This is followed by a consideration of employment advice offered in manuals, career novels and Women IS Employment. A chapter on educational sources initially considers 1950s sociological and educational research before turning to the records of the Association of Headmistresses and the Association of Assistant Mistresses to explore their expectations of school leavers. It also considers material submitted to the Crowther Committee for their Report in 1959 on educational provision from 15-18. In chapter five, constructions of the adult female role presented in Woman, Housewife and Girl are explored in relation to their construction of a female community and attitudes to paid employment. The thesis concludes with a discussion of twenty three interviews with women who left school between 1956 and 1960 between the ages of fifteen and eighteen. In drawing together this diversity of material the thesis demonstrates that the end of the 1950s was a period when attitudes towards the relationship of women to domesticity and paid work were marked in their complexity rather than in their consensus. It highlights the necessity of exploring both constructions of 'woman' as a unitary subject and the experiences of individuals in a historical evaluation of women's role in late 1950s England.
Supervisor: Goodman, Joyce ; Watts, Ruth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available