Breadwinners and homemakers: ideals of men and women in the family

Angela Davis

in Modern Motherhood

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780719084553
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702109 | DOI:
Breadwinners and homemakers: ideals of men and women in the family

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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In 1945 the ideal family was thought to consist of a mother as dependant homemaker, father as breadwinner, and two, three or four children. However this model family was transformed over the following decades. Women have come to play an active role in the labour force, men are more involved in the home and lifelong marriage is no longer the common experience. By examining cultural representations of motherhood this chapter considers how these ideas of the proper conduct of mothers and fathers, inside and outside the home, were presented within society. It evaluates how women themselves related to these images and the difficulties they faced in doing so. The chapter demonstrates that motherhood at this time was a subject fraught with contradictions and ambiguities, and these tensions are reflected in women’s articulations of their attitudes and experiences.

Keywords: Family; Children; Motherhood; Fatherhood; Popular culture; Social change

Chapter.  14086 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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