This thesis contributes to debates on the changes and continuities affecting women’s lives in mid-twentieth century Britain, examining the factors that shaped what was possible for women coming of age in the immediate post-war years. Within the developed historiography on the coalfields, women’s histories have been limited to broad overviews of women’s social history. This thesis enriches these overviews by offering a close reading of a small cohort of women’s composure of their life narratives. It thus promotes an understanding of a fuller ‘life history’, as affected by changes with the onset of the welfare state and the impact of community on women’s well-being. The thesis contributes to the growing body of literature combatting the silencing of women in the male dominated historiography on industrial working-class communities. Specifically, it does so in the context of the interplay and tensions between a community and its individuals, and the impact of that community on women’s life trajectories. The south Wales community of the Rhondda is utilised as a case study. Culturally and economically significant, the Rhondda has been the focus of much of the historiography on the coalfields. I conclude that the impact of gender ideology and community structures on Rhondda women’s experiences were diverse, complex and contradictory. In composing their life narratives, the cohort negotiated aspects of their lives experienced as poor, unchallenging and unsatisfying. Rhondda’s poverty had a detrimental impact on the women’s lives. Relationships between community values and individuals emerged as structures enabling and constraining the potential of women in the cohort to live their lives freely and satisfactorily. The pressure for respectability within the community was a major constraining force. Early experiences were influential in how they conducted themselves in adulthood. Yet evidence of happiness is present, particularly around experiences of married life, which presents as an antidote to the frequently pessimistic discourses surrounding the debates on companionate marriage. Utilising their own experiences of struggle and disadvantage, many of the cohort emphasised their support for increased opportunities for subsequent generations of Rhondda women.
|Date of Award||May 2016|
- University of South Wales
|Supervisor||Andrew Croll (Supervisor)|
- Social conditions
- 20th century