On 11 May, Prof. Lynn Abrams (Glasgow) presented an RHS lecture entitled ‘Pursuing autonomy: self-help and self fashioning amongst women in post-war Britain’. A podcast of Prof. Abrams’ lecture is available here, and her abstract is available below.
The 1960s has been dubbed the ‘do-it-yourself decade’. This was the era when the women of the so-called ‘transition generation’ began to discover the gap between their expectations and the realities of their lives and in most cases took it upon themselves to fill that gap with autonomous activity rather than looking to existing organisations or the state to act on their behalf. This lecture examines the place of do-it-yourself women’s organisations – the National Housewives’ Register, National Childbirth Trust and Pre-School Playgroups Association – in the emerging history of postwar womanhood in the United Kingdom and seeks to rescue them from the condescension of those who have regarded them as not being sufficiently critical of gender relations and thus not part of the postwar feminist narrative. I argue that these organisations which emerged at a grass roots level from women’s dissatisfaction and frustration, came to offer thousands the opportunity for self-development, self confidence and independence.