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Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes The Story of Women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson

Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes The Story of Women in the 1950s

History   The Real World   

Sue Baker's view...

This account of women’s lives in the 1950’s will resonant with every generation of women, those who lived through it and those whose mothers and grandmothers experienced this pre-feminist age. There were a few women who were able to buck the trend of home and children but the vast majority had no choice. Virginia Nicholson has interviewed a wide range of women, also using diaries and writings, weaving these stories through her history giving a pleasing continuity to a quite riveting read.

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Who is Sue Baker

The Good Book Guide logo The Good Book Guide Review. Nicholson’s engrossing study of the way women lived during the 1950s has a winning blend of oral testimony and archive material. It is a window on a decade in which the advent of labour-saving devices promised to transform daily domestic drudgery and the twin peaks of feminine aspiration were often marriage and one’s own home. It was pre the Pill, divorce was still considered shocking, and there was considerable pressure on women to achieve the feminine ideal, although happily the post-war world was beginning to accommodate broader goals too. It was a time of optimism, of rock and roll, but also one with the threat of nuclear disaster and a notorious scandal, that of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged for murder in Britain. For Nicholson ‘researching the 1950s often felt like time travel,’ and her meticulously researched book shows just how far women’s lives have subsequently evolved, and what a debt of gratitude we today owe to this pivotal generation of women.
~ Amanda Hodges


Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes The Story of Women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson

In Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes, Virginia Nicholson tells the story of women in the 1950s: a time before the Pill, when divorce spelled scandal and two-piece swimsuits caused mass alarm. Turn the page back to the mid-twentieth century, and discover a world peopled by women with radiant smiles, clean pinafores and gleaming coiffures; a promised land of batch-baking, maraschino cherries and brightly hued plastic. A world where the darker side of the decade encompasses rampant prostitution, a notorious murder, and the threat of nuclear disaster. Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes reconstructs the real 1950s, through the eyes of the women who lived it. Step back in time to where our grandmothers scrubbed their doorsteps, cared for their families, lived, laughed, loved and struggled. This is their story.


'Virginia Nicholson gets us closer than we have ever been before to the complicated day-to-day reality of women's lives during that still controversial decade, the 1950s' -- David Kynaston

'A ground-breaking book, richly nuanced with titbits of information, insight and understanding' Daily Mail (on 'Singled Out')

'Remarkably perceptive and well-researched ... Virginia Nicholson has produced another extraordinarily interesting work, sensitive, intelligent and well-written' Sunday Telegraph (on 'Singled Out')

'An inspiring book, lovingly researched, well-written and humane ... the period is beautifully caught' Economist (on 'Singled Out')

About the Author

Virginia Nicholson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and grew up in Yorkshire and Sussex. She studied at Cambridge University and lived abroad in France and Italy, then worked as a documentary researcher for BBC Television. Her books include the acclaimed social histories Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939, Singled Out: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men after the First World War, and Millions Like Us: Women's Lives During the Second World War, all published by Penguin. She is married to a writer, has three children and lives in Sussex.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th November 1999


Virginia Nicholson

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