Sunday, 22 April 2012

“Good Intentions for a Bad Decade”

Rachel Cooke reviewed The Fifties Mystique  for The Evening Standard. She is writing a book about the 50s herself, concentrating on the professional lives of women during that decade -  so she naturally disagrees with much of my argument.  I don’t disagree with hers. There were indeed, as she says,  breathtakingly successful scientists and journalist, architects and lawyers – in fact my mother was one of those lawyers. “The fifties didn’t feel limiting to them” Cooke says, quite rightly for in comparison with previous eras, women were much more free. But  the fact remains that even the most successful women were subordinate in law and custom. They took it for granted, and so did everyone else concerned. We were pleased with what we could have and didn’t  think  about what we couldn’t. It’s only with post-women’s-lib hindsight that  I recognize the restrictions women  lived with when I was young, as would  any of  Cooke’s academics, journalists, architects and lawyers  who lived long enough to see them disappear. The 50s may not have seemed limiting at the time but in retrospect they certainly do.

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