Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes: The Story of Women in the 1950s by Virginia Nicholson - review by Katharine Whitehorn

Katharine Whitehorn

The Revolution’s Near

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


Viking 526pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

The Fifties are too often spoken of as though they were just a damp patch between the battlefields of the Forties and the fairground of the Sixties. In fact, they were far more interesting than that in many ways, as this admirable book about women in the Fifties makes clear. The only thing I would quarrel with is the title. To be a perfect wife and have an ideal home may have been all that the women’s magazines suggested a girl should aspire to, but in practice she might find her way to being any number of things, from air hostess to lawyer to redcoat at Butlin’s – which may sound negligible but was a high-powered job. 

It was a time when things like refrigerators and televisions were making the housewife’s life better. The young female monarch, whose coronation early in the Fifties happily coincided with the availability of television and nylon (which had been in short supply during the war), inspired hopes of a ‘new Elizabethan

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