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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

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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. ~ Sue Baker

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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 encompassed 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 when 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

'Nicholson handles her material with confidence, sympathy and, ultimately, optimism that for most women things have improved, so that the abiding emotion is not gloom but, in my case, admiration for my mother's generation and gratitude that it was so much better for ours' Daily Telegraph

'Nicholson uses vivid contemporary sources and oral testimony to show the constraints under which so many women lived. Like David Kynaston's Family Britain ... Nicholson has the same knack of seamlessly piecing gripping individual stories into a panorama of ordinary life' Sunday Times

'An important and humane book of female social history ... In this work, Nicholson musters voices to profound and deeply political effect. Much of the material in this book will be familiar to women over 55: we were born into this world. For younger women, though, Nicholson's book should be necessary reading, to remind them how far we have travelled.' -- Melanie Reid The Times

'An uplifting and heartwarming read Stella Nicholson spells out the contradictions of this era so well: a new world dressed in old clothes Indendent on Sunday Remarkable. To today's young, it'll sound like life on another planet' Daily Mail

'The achievements of the women in this book haunt us and move us to admiration' Guardian

'Insightful social history. Mixing research with a wealth of anecdote, Nicholson brings history to vivid and touching life' Mail on Sunday

'Poignantly illustrates how the women of the 1950s yearned for the innovative technology of the era to liberate them from repetitive drudgery' -- Victoria Coren Mitchell Observer

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

3rd March 2016


Virginia Nicholson

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Penguin Books Ltd


544 pages


Biography / Autobiography
The Real World
eBook Favourites

Social & cultural history



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