The number of married women working outside their homes after the Second World War rose rapidly despite widespread criticism of working wives and mothers. This article discusses three main trends associated with this change. First, many women reacted to the discourse criticizing working mothers by trying to change the view of ideal motherhood as exclusively domestically bound. They defended their actions by arguing that a good mother was not solely one who stayed at the beck and call of her family, but one who nurtured their self-reliance and independence by not being constantly available and provided goods and pleasures otherwise out of reach of the family. Second, the criticism of working mothers combined with the dual burden that most women faced in choosing employment to create an unprecedented demand for part-time jobs. The change in women's work force participation since World War II is almost entirely attributable to the rise in part-time workers. Third, because observers and the women themselves so often described wives’ work as providing extras for the family, the value of women's work was debased. This obscured women's role in creating the affluent society and allowed the male breadwinner ideal to continue unaffected despite major social change, as the public still generally viewed men as having primary responsibility for family support.
Despite a steady rise in the number of Britain's married women and mothers working at jobs outside the home after 1939, the conventional wisdom that a woman's true role in life should be domesticity and motherhood remained widespread. While condemnation of working mothers lessened somewhat from the 1950s to the 1960s as they became more common, the domestic ideal hung on tenaciously. Nonetheless, in 20 years, the typical woman worker shifted from a young, single girl to a married woman over 30, usually with children. This article will discuss three related effects of this major demographic and economic shift.
First, from the early 1950s, many employed mothers began to challenge, although not overturn, the dominant discourse of the ideal mother as exclusively bound to the home. The simple fact that so many women were drawn to work outside the home despite criticism demonstrates the monetary and psychological importance of employment for women. It was not easy to articulate a vision of working mothers capable of combating the discourse that mothers who worked harmed their children or caused juvenile delinquency, but many women tried to establish a new image of motherhood by citing the benefits employment provided their families. In this new definition, a good mother was not solely one who stayed at the beck and call of her family, but one who nurtured their self-reliance and independence by not being constantly available, as well as by providing goods and pleasures otherwise out of reach of the family. This rationalization in itself shows the continuing strength of domestic ideology, as it was extremely difficult for a woman to defend work outside the home without arguing that her paid work benefited her children and home more than herself.
Second, negative commentary about women in the workforce obscured the role they played in the economy. Observers generally considered women neither producers nor an integral part of the workforce, but rather saw them as consumers. Despite the fact that women's earnings increasingly paid for many of the goods and luxuries considered the essence of the affluent society, from washing machines to cars, the role women played in creating that society has been largely unrecognized, both by contemporaries and by later scholars.1 To be sure, married women who worked were usually not the sole support of their families, a situation which undermined public (and sometimes their own) perceptions of the importance of their work and earnings. But because wives who worked were often seen as a violation of some natural order, both women and men typically characterized wives’ earnings as ‘extra’. In consequence, married women were able to take jobs in record numbers without undermining the ideology of the male breadwinner because most people viewed men as having primary responsibility for family support while women's principal role was motherhood. Femininity and motherhood were still inextricably intertwined, just as family support and masculinity were. A married woman had no ‘right’ to work.
Third, the discourse surrounding working mothers helped create the demand for part-time work. Rare before the Second World War, in the 1950s and 1960s the number of part-time workers more than quadrupled; almost all of them were married women. Rather than working before marriage, women increasingly worked until the birth of their first child, took a few years off and returned to work when the children were older, most commonly when the youngest child entered school. If possible, most women preferred to return part-time, a choice which many sociologists and other ‘experts’ hailed as a solution to fears that working mothers might neglect children, turning them into delinquents. Government officials, who feared the effects of working mothers, kept strict controls on the number of childcare places available, both privately and in public day nurseries, raising the cost of such care. Most women found part-time childcare cheaper and easier to arrange, also fuelling the demand for part-time work.
Demographically, as scholars then and now have pointed out, much of the rise in the number of married women workers was simply attributable to the overall increase in married women due to a lower average age at marriage. But it also stemmed from full employment, an end to marriage bars, and a declining birth rate that reduced the amount of the time most women spent raising children. Large numbers of married women workers were also mothers. By the early 1960s in London, where opportunities were best and costs highest, 42 percent of women with children under five had an outside job.2 The return of married women to work was a phenomenon common to all classes, although it was at first more prevalent among working-class women, who found it easier to overcome their husbands’ objections by seeking money for a specific financial goal.3
While sociologists have studied the phenomenon of working mothers, there remains little historical work on the topic. Little of the type of detailed work that has revealed many subtleties about gender ideology and employment prior to 1945 has yet appeared for the post-war period.4 While it is often accepted that there was a widespread discourse on domesticity in the 1950s, responses to that discourse are understudied, as are the cultural, economic and legal changes that have most affected women since 1945.5 As we will see, the debate about working mothers sheds light on issues of affluence, consumerism, part-time work, politics and post-war gender ideals. Women were not passive receptacles of gender ideology in the early post-war period, although it is clear that that gendered discourse did shape their decisions and their defence of those choices. Women's actions were a response not only to criticism of working mothers, but to the material and emotional attractions associated with affluence. The desire for the kind of lifestyle later associated with affluence drew many women into workforce so that they could achieve a higher standard of living for their family, helping to create the general rise in living standards.
Creating Delinquents—Conventional Wisdom and Working Mothers
The rush of married women into the workforce ran headlong into the conventional wisdom that women must choose between family and career. Many observers condemned working mothers as selfish, unnatural and even dangerous to their children and society. As sociologist Richard Titmuss commented in 1955, ‘few subjects are more surrounded with prejudice and moral platitudes than this’.6 Many formal and informal marriage bars (forcing women to leave work upon marriage) still existed after the Second World War, although they declined rapidly due to the post-war labour shortage. Generally, most of the public condemned not so much the idea of married women's work per se as its association with motherhood. In 1965, one public opinion poll found that while 80 percent of those surveyed thought women with young (under school-age) children should always stay at home, less than one percent stated she should do so if there were no children involved.7
Children made all the difference. Local magistrates, police officers, social workers, psychiatrists and probation officers were not shy about claiming that the rise in juvenile delinquency was attributable to ‘the increasing number of mothers going out to work, who “could not attend properly to the upbringing of their children as well” ’.8 As psychoanalyst and radio commentator D.W. Winnicott, argued in a 1946 paper entitled ‘Some psychological aspects of juvenile delinquency’—‘I put it this way. When a child steals sugar he is looking for the good mother, his own, from whom he has a right to take what sweetness is there’.9
Probably the best known supporter of deprivation theories, that is, that separation from the mothers harmed children, was Dr John Bowlby, whose report for the World Health Organization was excerpted by Penguin in 1953 as the best-selling Childcare and the Growth of Love. His research, based on children completely separated from their parents and housed in institutions during the war, was not appropriate as a basis for judging the mothering of ordinary women, but this distinction was quickly lost. In 1958 Bowlby produced a pamphlet with the title ‘Can I Leave my Baby?’ in which he argued that to leave a baby with anyone but a father or close relatives (even in an emergency) imperilled the child; a mother gone on a daily basis would cause severe damage. Delinquency became associated with the mother's absence for any length of time, even for a few hours of paid work.10 Few commentators challenged much of this hyperbole until the 1970s.11
National and local government officials, in particular, rarely questioned the notion that working mothers resulted in delinquent children and ignored data from studies actually done on working mothers that generally showed no such effects.12 For example, in 1954, the Home Office was quick to link a rise in married women's unemployment in Burnley to greatly reduced delinquency rates. But Ministry of Labour officials found on further investigation that while the number of women registered as unemployed had increased, the total number of women employed had risen far more rapidly. If anything, delinquency had decreased with more women working and seeking work. They found no link between the rates of married working women anywhere in Lancashire with either crime rates or delinquency complaints.13
Civil servants worried both about the effects of the working mother and possible public hostility if they appeared to be encouraging mothers to work. In 1958, the Ministry of Labour went so far as to try to assess what the economic effects would be if all married women were driven from the labour market, to be replaced either by machines or younger workers. The resulting prospects were so dire officials immediately dropped the topic. Without the 3.7 million married women workers, certain industries and the health care system would simply collapse.14 Aside from this one rather bizarre study, officials reluctantly conceded that married women were in the labour force to stay, at least as long as full employment continued.
A sample of the public discourse which the officials feared can be seen in a 1956 Picture Post story on day nurseries. Reporter Venetia Murray asked, ‘Is it really necessary in this Welfare State for a woman to go out to work, or do they do it for the ice cream and the TV?’ The article featured enormous photos of sad children, taken through the bars of a crib, so that it resembled a jail cell. The article featured the wisdom of Dr Ronald MacKeith, described as ‘one of the great experts on the care of children in the country’, who claimed that putting a young child in a nursery ‘may cause more lasting and irreparable damage to the child even than under-feeding it through poverty’.15 This condemnation is startling considering the then well-known correlation between poverty, poor housing and delinquency, yet none of the experts on the topic considered that a mother's work could be helpful to the family by alleviating overcrowding and other problems caused by low income.16
Similarly, Murray dismissed mothers’ reasons for working—better food, education, clothes and holidays for the children. As she wrote, ‘All the time they explained, their excellent reasons seemed a little like excellent excuses. It seemed there was just a shade of doubt, or guilt in their minds’.17 Similarly, a 1958 Times story criticized working mothers whose earnings went on ‘frivolities’, such as televisions, rather than necessities such as hot water heaters.18
Women's magazines also presented an idealized version of domesticity. A Woman's Own advice columnist told one woman her children wanted a mother, not an efficient career woman who ‘can talk about everything, except pleasant, trivial, day-to-day matters that are the breath of family life’.19 Another agony aunt in She advised a mother not to ‘disturb the domestic harmony’ by returning to work against the wishes of her husband in order to pay school fees. ‘Your husband will have every right to feel he is being cheated of his wife, and your boys in the holidays of their mother. Think again!’20
Even as they promoted often unobtainable images of domestic happiness, women's magazine editors did sometimes let awareness of the contradictions in such portrayals slip into print. Woman, cognizant of the burdens of trying to balance work and home, criticized the government in 1947 for urging women temporarily back to work to aid the badly-needed export drive yet doing nothing to make it easier for women to do so. In the late 1940s, Woman, Woman's Own, and Good Housekeeping urged bored wives without children to beat the ‘brides’ blues’ by going back to work. Yet Woman's Own also urged women to stay home if husbands objected, rather than risk the ‘happiness of your life together’.21
These dilemmas and debates played out not only in agony columns and letters to the editor but in wider popular culture. Niamh Baker's analysis of women's fiction in the early post-war period found few books that depicted women at work; when they did the work was almost exclusively repetitive and dull or labelled feminine: governess, secretary, teacher, servant. Baker believes that a post-war anti-feminist backlash made it difficult to use heroines who openly identified with women's rights or were professionally successful as many 1930s characters had been. But women writers often portrayed even menial work as a source of satisfaction and identity, depicting idleness and aimlessness as leading to disaster for women and condemning the men who sought to enforce inactivity upon them. Thus their fiction provided support for subverting stereotypes, even as characters acted in stereotypical ways.22 However, the generally middle-brow books Baker reviewed had their circulation dwarfed by better-selling popular fiction which reinforced gender stereotypes, such as Mills and Boon romances (better known in North America as Harlequin) or Ian Fleming's James Bond.23 Popular romantic novels and serials, especially those for girls, depicted women going to great lengths for love, automatically giving up their careers upon marriage and motherhood.24
Film also reinforced gender stereotypes. Adaptations from the Angry Young Men's misogynistic work were popular, and film scholars have also pointed to such cinema melodramas as The Man in Grey (1945), The Red Shoes (1948), and Woman in a Dressing Gown (1957), in which women are punished for not conforming to conventional roles.25 For example, the 1948 film version of Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Red Shoes added a husband and changed the focus from a punishment for vanity to condemnation of the heroine's neglect of her family due to her desire for a career as a ballet dancer. In My Teenage Daughter (1956), a magistrate scolds the working mother for neglect, blaming her for her teenager's smoking, listening to rock music and taking up with a ‘wastrel’ boyfriend. One of the few positive portrayals of mothers and work came from 1948's The Guinea Pig in which the mother works to raise money to send her son to a public school. Of course, with the child in boarding school the mother's daily care had become superfluous.
The influence of movies and magazines on women is difficult to quantify, but statistics show that during this period five of every six women in Britain read at least one woman's magazine. In 1950, Good Housekeeping reached one of every two women in the middle-class while Woman had a weekly circulation of almost 3.5 million in the late 1950s.26 If their domestic agenda had radically disagreed with the majority of their readers, it is highly unlikely that these magazines could have sold in such numbers. The editorial staff of Woman claimed circulation dropped rapidly if they tried to ‘deal with social problems’ rather than print stories on domestic life, knitting or the royal family.27 Similarly, while annual film admissions did plummet from 1.4 billion in 1950 to 500 million by 1960 (largely the result of competition from television), many theatre goers still went multiple times weekly and almost 90 percent of schoolchildren saw at least one movie a month and usually more.28
In addition, the testimony of working women interviewed during the 1950s and 1960s show that most were aware of ideas on deprivation and delinquency, even if unable to define the source as Bowlby or Winnicott. They knew ‘good mothers’ were supposed to be home with their children or risk negative effects, causing incredible tension between their feelings of guilt and a desire or need for other outlets.29 Agony columns often featured heart-breaking letters from women who felt trapped at home, such as a young Hertfordshire mother, 23, with a 6-month-old baby. ‘I think I do everything for him that could be expected of a reasonable mother, but Johnny, my husband, is quite silly about the baby and says that I must never leave him’. The woman, who had not been out of the house in 6 months, felt imprisoned, despite her husband buying a television and telling her, ‘it ought to be enough’.30 Over 10 years later little had changed when Hannah Gavron found numerous women confined in their homes with their children. Many of her subjects did not live near their families; because many were afraid (or could not afford) to leave their children with anyone but relatives, they were with their children all day, every day.31 Another woman told Judith Hubback she was waiting for the day ‘when the children are bigger, I may be able to escape’.32
The Birmingham Feminist History Group, which included Catherine Hall and Angela Coyle, has cautioned that ‘it would be wrong to see the influence of Bowlbyism either as entirely negative or as foisted upon unwilling women by the dominant ideologues’. The group argued that at least the Bowlby school recognized mothers ‘as vital members of the community’ and home as a place where women had power, which explains why so many women accepted the implications of deprivation theories: ‘If you have to be at home, you might as well be important!’33
Of course, many women were happy at home.34 It is also wrong to think that paid work was a fix-all for every woman. Not only did women face extra stress from the dual role, but also, as Sheila Rowbotham has pointed out, most women's jobs were not particularly creative or energizing. Nevertheless, many women dreaded the feeling of being shut-in and appreciated even jobs not considered ‘careers’.35 Stay-at-home women, however, were often the most vehement critics of their sisters who worked for pay; possibly they sublimated any frustration into condemnation of women not content to stay at home. An at-home mother quoted by Zweig is typical. ‘Working mothers are often spoiled and selfish; they don’t care twopence about their homes and children’.36 The same woman went on to say, however, that working women got more respect and better treatment within their families.
Defending Working Mothers
As the Guardian's Women's Page editor Mary Stott wrote in the 1970s, all the ‘disturbing figures by experts’ and heated discussion were powerless ‘to stop the march of the women out of the four walls of home, whether for good or ill’.37 The increasing numbers of married women workers was not only a phenomenon in Britain but rose in every western country in the 1950s and 1960s. By 1970, the majority of women working in Britain, France, Sweden and the US were married. These women clearly had either a desire or a need to work strong enough to balance out the moral condemnation, the cost of childcare, and the burden of balancing home and work. Since the majority of women received little domestic help from their husbands, they clearly had reasons which outweighed what the neighbours (or newspapers) might have thought. So why did women say they were working?
Most women cited money as the top reason. One factory worker noted, ‘there was a saying that if you worked in the factory you were either among the needy or the greedy. Most of us were needy’.38 Even women who avoided permanent work took casual jobs brewing tea or cleaning to get money for extras. Said one mother, ‘if it only bought the material for them to have some pants it was a big help, you know’. A disabled, poorly paid or absent husband were all reasons to add to the family coffers, as were high rents caused by the housing shortage.39 Census data and most sociological surveys of married women who worked found about 15–20 percent of them were the sole or main support of the family.40 Such women were more likely to invoke pity than criticism. Almost every source that condemned working mothers exempted those for whom it was ‘necessary’ to work.41 The sticking point was that after World War II, the definition of what was ‘necessary’ was in flux.
For many, the spread of affluence changed ideas about acceptable standards of living, affecting the definition of what it meant to ‘need’ to work. While the economic security of affluence was slow to spread to much of the working class until the later 1950s, the post-war standard of living of the average Briton did improve. Real wages rose and goods became ever more tantalizing because average citizens were now able to afford them, especially as hire-purchase regulations were relaxed.42 As Elizabeth Roberts has concluded from her numerous oral interviews, ‘We needed the money’ did not have the same meaning in 1960 as in 1935.43 Women workers were often not the poorest women, but rather came from families where the husbands were skilled manual or lower-white collar workers.
Yet, many more women than one in five who were the main support of their family said they worked because they ‘needed’ the money. What did this mean? Many women defined it as specific material goods—extra lessons, additional clothes, a vacation, furniture, owing a home, car or even just a television—arguing their work was bringing a rise in the family's standard of living. Sociologist Margot Jeffreys found in a 1951 survey of higher-level civil servants that a desire for a ‘middle-class way of life’ was a major inducement for women to continue their careers.44 Women of all classes often mentioned educational expenses as a top priority—everything from paying for uniforms and school travel holidays to allowing children (usually boys) to stay at school longer. Sociologist Pearl Jephcott found that while most women did not necessarily work for sheer necessities such as food ‘neither was it for mere pin money if by “pins” are meant pleasant little frivolities for personal enjoyment. For most women the aim was a higher standard of living’.45 The enthusiastic response to affluence reflected not just hunger for material goods, but a desire for a different family lifestyle.46 After 1945, most working-class women rejected large families and the burden of the kind of life their mothers had often lived. Both men and women had material and emotional expectations for better standards of living and a working wife could add considerably to achieving those goals.
Women argued they did not work for selfish reasons but rather for their family's benefit. Partly, this is because it was not acceptable at the time for most women to simply want to work or to admit to being less than satisfied by a life of homemaking. But of course, denial of selfishness was also a clear response to criticism of the working mother. Many women needed to justify their work to society (and often to themselves) by characterizing it as benefiting, not hurting, their families. In doing so, these women were challenging the conventional vision of what constituted a good mother. Turning the deprivation theories on their head, they argued that selfish, neglectful women were not those who worked, but those who passed up the chance to raise the family's standard of living.47 A good mother increasingly became one who ‘put herself out for the kids sake’.48 As Carolyn Steedman wrote about her 1950s upbringing in Landscape for a Good Woman, ‘We’d known all our childhood that she was a good mother: she’d told us so: we’d never gone hungry; she went out to work for us; we had warm beds to lie in at night’.49 By the late 1950s, if a local area began to get a concentration of married women workers, avoidance of paid work could start to reflect badly on women who stayed home compared to neighbours balancing the dual role. As Virginia Novarra notes, ‘The woman who did not seek a paid job was culpably passing up an opportunity to raise her family's standard of living and was liable to be a muddler in housekeeping.’50
Women from all income levels defended their work in a variety of ways. Less affluent women argued they had no choice, while educated women were more likely to speak in terms of not wasting their talents and training, although both cited the benefits extra money could bring. They argued that the advantages outweighed any theoretical risk of juvenile delinquency. Some, usually middle class, mentioned that children were likely to be more damaged by a mother forced to stay at home unwillingly.51 Many women also believed they were creating stronger, more self-reliant children, ones with a sense of independence and initiative. It is doubtful that so many women would have worked if they thought their employment was truly harming their children, but it was not enough to not harm them, women felt compelled to argue their work benefited their children. Actress Patricia Roc, mother of a 2-year-old son, justified her work in a 1955 issue of She magazine.
Similarly, the young Margaret Thatcher urged women in 1952 to ‘wake up’ to the new Elizabethan age. Home and work could be managed successfully, she argued; limiting women to domesticity wasted talent.
Obviously if any mother works it is not usually for the pleasure of it, but for economic and social reasons. If I am fortunate enough to be able to provide my son – through my work – with the extra little touches and the extra education which will better fit him to face the future on his own, then I am not only entitled, but duty bound, to continue my career and let a good nurse or relative care for him when I am not around.52
Then newly married and not yet a mother, Thatcher argued that a failure to draw competent and able women into public life would be a betrayal of ‘the tremendous work of those who fought for equal rights against such misguided opposition’.53 While outsiders were happy to criticize them, few women who actually worked or their children spoke of negative effects. The former would not surprise many, the latter might. A major government social survey done in the mid 1960s asked respondents whether their own mother had worked, and if so, had they resented it. Surprisingly few viewed their mother's working negatively, although many said they had missed their mother sometimes.54
The idea that the family suffers is, I believe, quite mistaken. To carry on with a career stimulates the mind, provides a refreshing contact with the world outside – and so means that a wife can be a much better companion at home. Moreover, when the children themselves marry, she is not left with a gap in her life which so often seems impossible to fill.
No discourse is all encompassing, of course, and even at the height of the scare over juvenile delinquency, there were a few experts willing to defend working mothers, at least up to a point. Their comments did not come close to overturning the conventional beliefs about working mothers, however, and even their positive comments about mothers reflected the dominant notions about women's behaviour. Such experts were generally those with a lot of research time or expertise in the field, who denied that working caused women to neglect their families. Rather they found most women's decisions to return to work were ultimately shaped by the kind of childcare they could obtain. They simply did not work if they could not make adequate arrangements.55 Elizabeth Pepperell, Assistant Director of the Industrial Welfare Society, said that in her career as a personnel officer, she ‘never found a girl put her job before her children. Professional women sometimes might but not the manual worker’. She argued the majority of women working did so out of need. ‘The mother must work …. What is the effect on the children? Admittedly, some children suffer from the absence of the mother, but in general, children between 9 and 15 are more resourceful when the mother goes out to work’.56 Pepperell's comments reveal both class and moral assumptions. She was reacting to the discourse that women had no right to work, especially to satisfy their own needs. Observers associated such employment with professional women, often stereotyped as selfish, cold and wedded to their careers. In addition, professionals, largely middle class, did not have to work. Clearly, ‘having’ to work took away much of the stigma.
Of course, the financial need of families may not have always been women's top priority, but rather simply what they thought seemed most acceptable or what observers wanted to hear. While over three quarters of women cited money as the biggest reason for working, when questioned more closely, most said they would work anyway (particularly middle-class women who had trained for a professional career).57 Virtually all surveys or interviews found women motivated not only by money, but also by a desire to be useful, find companionship or combat boredom, especially once their children entered school. Pearl Jephcott thought these women were ‘less in revolt against pots and pans, than not quite sure how to fill their day’.58 When questioned why they worked, most women gave multiple reasons. As one said, ‘I was just vegetating at home, and I felt I needed an interest again, and we needed the money’.59 Sociologist Ferdynand Zweig argued that women fundamentally regarded work not just in a material sense but as ‘a change, an escape from the four walls, the basis of their independence and dignity, a symbol of their higher status’.60
Indeed, a desire for work was often caused by a resentment of the power that a single earner held within a marriage. The pages of women's publications were filled with letters from housewives denied money by their husbands, berated for asking for extra housekeeping money or even pocket change—examples which go a long way to explaining why so many women were willing to take on a double burden. Having two incomes altered the balance of power in many marriages. As one woman said proudly, ‘I don’t need to ask my husband's permission to spend a shilling as others do. I spend my own money in my own way’.61 Telling others that the money was needed, however, made it easier to justify work, making it more acceptable even when women worked for other reasons. Said another woman, ‘I would have felt guilty asking people to look after the children while I went out. But it seemed acceptable to ask someone to look after them while I did a job’.62
Thus women workers primarily characterized their work and the material goods derived from it as being for the family or the children, even when that may not have been the whole story—a tendency Carolyn Steedman has also commented on.
This discourse of material things benefiting the children did, of course, make the parents’ desire for those things far more acceptable. In a major study done in the early 1960s, Simon Yudkin and Althea Holme found not a single woman who professed directly to be working for themselves; rather they spoke of buying a house, holidays, ‘helping out’, furnishings and clothes or other items for the children—many of the items so associated with the affluent society—yet only a few would even acknowledge that extra money ‘provide[ed] jam for the bread’.64
Now I enjoy shocking people by telling them how goods were introduced into households under the guise of gifts for children: the fridge in the house of the children I played with over the road was given to the youngest as a birthday present – the last thing an eight-year-old wants …. The record player also came into [our] house in this way, as my eleventh birthday present. I wasn’t allowed to take it with me when I left, though: it really wasn’t mine at all.63
Evidence related to working-class women's historic role in the family also provides another likely explanation for women's compulsion to say they were ‘working for the family’. While most saw the post-war rise in married women working outside the home as an unprecedented phenomenon, in many respects it was often more of a shift in the type of work women did than a complete innovation. Since 1939 standardized, paid work for married women outside the home has increased while married women's home-based petty capitalism has declined. Many more married women worked in the first half of the 20th century than the roughly one in ten counted in the census (and there is evidence that both women and census enumerators collaborated in this undercounting).65 Close studies of interwar and Edwardian working-class communities have found as many as 40 percent of women were some sort of petty, or as Carl Chinn puts it, ‘penny’ capitalists. Women earned money through taking in boarders or washing, child-minding, charring and selling second-hand clothes or homemade food and drink. They also picked up casual work that did not reflect as badly on a husband's abilities as breadwinner.66 Previously, observers rarely acknowledged women's monetary contributions to family support because working mothers were part of the underground economy of sweated labour, casual and home work unrecorded by the census. This type of ‘women's work’ became invisible.
Pearl Jephcott found in the 1950s that many of the working-class women she interviewed worried that they did not pull the weight in the family that their mothers had. Even if their mothers had not worked outside the home, their day-to-day domestic burdens were generally far heavier.67 (A significant portion of the women who worked in the early and mid-1950s, when it was still fairly unusual, however, did have mothers who worked.) It appears that this sense of having it easier was not only about physical labour but also was related to the pre-war tradition of women helping to support the family. This helps explain why many women felt they needed to work and to explain their work in terms of family support—they were used to thinking in those terms, even if experts were not.
The Rise of Part-time Work
Since women continued to be drawn to paid work, one could question whether the public discourse opposing outside jobs had any effect beyond triggering guilt in working mothers. The answer lies in the striking demand for part-time work. Between 1951 and 1971, while almost two million women entered the workforce and the number of married women working skyrocketed, the number of full-time workers declined. As seen in Table 2, the overall number of male workers declined while the number of female workers grew by over 20 percent, albeit as part-time, not full-time workers. Women working part-time went from 9 percent of workers to 38 percent and almost all of these women were married.68 These were the third highest rates of part-time workforce participation in the western world, and the countries with higher rates did not have part-time work forces as dominated by women as Britain.69
Occupational rates of women, 1931–71
|Year||Percentage of all women occupied||Women as percentage of total workforce||Ever married women as percentage of paid women workers||Percentage of married women working|
|Year||Percentage of all women occupied||Women as percentage of total workforce||Ever married women as percentage of paid women workers||Percentage of married women working|
1 For the sake of brevity, affluence is defined here as a rise in living standards and economic security due to rising wages and the welfare state. F. Zweig, The British Worker (London, 1952); J.K. Gailbraith, The Affluent Society (London, 1958); F. Zweig, The Worker in the Affluent Society (London, 1962); J. H. Goldthorpe, D. Blackwood, F. Bechhofer and J. Platt, The Affluent Worker, 3 Vols. (Cambridge, 1968); N. Tiratsoo, Reconstruction, Affluence, and Labour Politics: Coventry, 1945–1960 (London, 1990); L. Black, The Political Culture of the Left in Affluent Britain, 1951–64: Old Labour, New Britain? (Houndsmill, 2003).
2 OECD, Job and Family: measures to help women fulfil a dual role (Geneva, 1965). London also had a concentration of immigrant women, who had higher than average rates of paid work. See A. Phizacklea, Unpacking the Fashion Industry: Gender, Racism and Class in Production (London, 1990).
3 Almost all women who worked said they originally remained or returned to work after motherhood to fund a specific financial goal, such as furniture or a holiday. See note 39. Alternatively, the other group with high work rates were professionals who had invested significant amounts of time into their training, such as doctors.
4 For example, among others, the work of A. Clark, L.L. Downs, M. Glucksmann, S. Pedersen and S. Rose. The best work on mothers in the post-1945 era remains D. Riley, War in the nursery: Theories of the child and mother (London, 1983). For newer work, see S. Brooke, ‘Gender and Working Class Identity in Britain in the 1950s’, Journal of Social History, 34/4 (2001), 773–95; P. Summerfield, ‘ “They didn’t want women back in that job!’’: the Second World War and the construction of gendered work histories’, Labour History Review, 63/1 (Spring 1998), 83–103; and E. Roberts, Women and families: An oral history 1940–1970 (Oxford, 1995).
5 As noted in P. Thane, ‘What difference did the vote make? Women in public and private life in Britain since 1918’, Historical Research, 76 (May 2003), 268–85.
6 Quoted in D. Riley, ‘The Free Mothers’, History Workshop, 11 (1981), 85–6.
7 S. Dex, Women's Attitudes towards Work (New York, 1988), 34.
8 An unnamed ‘leading probation officer’ at the ‘Women in a Changing World’ conference, quoted in M. Stott, Organization Woman: The Story of the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds (London, 1978), 169–70.
9 Address to magistrates reprinted in D. W. Winnicott, Deprivation and Delinquency (London, 1984), 111–19. Deprivation literature almost never mentioned the role of fathers.
10 For extensive discussion of deprivation theories, see Riley, War in the nursery.
11 Michael Rutter's Maternal Deprivation Reassessed (Harmondsworth, 1973) sums up research.
12 For example, T. Ferguson and J. Cunnison, The Young Wage Earner (Oxford, 1951) found that a mother's work made fatherless boys strive to succeed.
13 C. P. H. Underhill (Home Office) to G. J. Nash, 27 Jan. 1954, and E. H. McGale to M. D. Boston, 12 March 1954, LAB 8/2379, The National Archives, Public Record Office, Kew (hereafter simply TNA: PRO).
14 For example, by 1951, married women made up a third of all nursing staff. ‘Note on the Economic Effects of a Withdrawal of Married Women from the Labour Market’, 23 June 1958, LAB 8/2380, TNA: PRO.
15 Venetia Murray, ‘The Children of Women who work’, Picture Post, 7 January 1956.
16 D. M. Lowson, City Lads in Borstal (Liverpool, 1970), 4; D. J. West, Delinquency (Cambridge, MA, 1982), 29–30.
17Picture Post, 7 January 1956.
18 ‘Mothers Out at Work’, Times, 2 June 1958.
19 Quoted in E. A. McCarty, ‘Attitudes to Women and Domesticity in England, c. 1939–1955’, (D.Phil. Thesis, Corpus Christi College, Oxford University, 1994), 168.
21Woman's Own, 1 September 1955. See also Woman, 29 March, 2, 28 June 1947, quoted in McCarty, ‘Attitudes to Women and Domesticity in England’, 166–70.
22 N. Baker, Happily Ever After? Women's Fiction in Postwar Britain, 1945–1960 (New York, 1989), 68–73, 161–4.
23 J. McAleer, Passion's Fortune: the story of Mills & Boon (Oxford, 1999); T. Bennett and J. Woollacott, Bond and beyond: the political career of a popular hero (New York, 1987).
24 For the typical giving up of the career, see J. Drummond, ‘Spell of the Islands’, Woman's Own, 26 June 1965; J. Gillott, ‘The World of Learning,’ in H. Hunkins-Hallinan (ed.), In Her Own Right (London, 1968), 23–43; McAleer, Passion's Fortune, 202–79.
25 M. Landry, ‘Melodrama and Femininity in World War II British Cinema’, in R. Murphy (ed.), The British Cinema Book (London, 1997), 79–89, 168–9; M. Williams, ‘Women in prison and women in dressing gowns: rediscovering the 1950s films of J. Lee Thompson’, Journal of Gender Studies, 11/1 (2002), 5–16; S. Rowbotham, A Century of Women (New York, 1997), 300.
26 M. Pugh, Women and the Women's Movement in Britain, 2nd Ed. (London, 2000), 86, 209–10; R. Ballaster, M. Beetham, E. Frazer and S. Hebron, Women's Worlds: Ideology, Femininity and the Woman's Magazine (London, 1991), 111–3.
27 M. Greive, Millions Made My Story (London, 1964).
28 M. Akhtar and S. Humphries, The Fifties and Sixties: a lifestyle revolution (London, 2001).
29 See for example, Letters, She, March 1955; McCarty, Attitudes to Women and Domesticity in England, 166–70; Roberts, Women and Families, 150–2; and H. Gavron, The Captive Wife: Conflicts of Housebound Mothers (London, 1966).
31 Gavron, The Captive Wife.
32 J. Hubback, Wives Who Went to College (London, 1957), 75.
33 Birmingham Feminist History Group (BFHG), ‘Feminism as Femininity in the 1950s’, Feminist Review, 3 (1979), 52, 56–58.
34 McCarty, Attitudes to Women and Domesticity, 350; Roberts, Women and Families, 125; and G. H. Gallup (ed.), The Gallup international public opinion polls, Great Britain, 1937–1975 (New York, 1976), 223.
35 Dex, Women's Attitudes towards Work, 24–8; S. Rowbotham, A Century of Women (New York, 1997), 367.
36 F. Zweig, Women's Life and Labour (London, 1952), 26.
37 Stott, Organization Woman, 170.
38 Elizabeth Harrison, ‘Part-time twilight shift worker’, quoted in Rowbotham, A Century of Women, 290.
39 Quote from Roberts, Women and Families, 124. For details on why women worked, see also Dex, Women's Attitudes towards Work; P. Jephcott, Women, Wife and Worker (London, 1960); P. Jephcott, N. Seear and J. H. Smith, Married Women Working (London, 1962); V. Klein, Britain's Married Women Workers (London, 1965); S. Yudkin and A. Holme, Working Mothers and their Children (London, 1963); and M. Jefferys, ‘Married Women in the Higher Grades of the Civil Service and Government Sponsored Research Organizations’, British Journal of Sociology, 3/4 (December 1952), 361–4.
40 Jefferys, Married Women, 361–4. Klein and Jephcott found similar rates, although other surveys found much higher levels of financial necessity, up to 60 percent. Yudkin and Holme, Working Mothers and their Children, 44–7.
41 For examples, see Dex, Women's Attitudes towards Work, 34.
42 From 1945 to 1975, infant mortality rates were more than halved, real household earnings increased 35 percent, and commodities such as televisions and vacuum cleaners expanded to reach over 90 of British homes. Home ownership doubled and foreign holidays and car ownership quadrupled. Mitchell, British Historical Statistics, 59, 569, 740–3, 848–56.
43 Roberts, Women and Families, 126.
44 Jefferys, ‘Married Women’, 361–4.
45 Jephcott, Women, Wife and Worker, 11.
46 Hoggart also argued attitudes toward affluence (or ‘progress’) were more than mere materialism. Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (Fair Lawn, NJ, 1957), 143.
47 Novarra, Women's work, men's work, 68; See also Jephcott, Married Women Working, 23; Klein, Britain's Married Women Workers.
48 Jephcott, Married Women Working, 97. It was generally younger working-class women who used such language as ‘putting herself out’, while professional women tended to stress increased opportunities for their children rather than a sacrifice on their own part, but the sentiment seems to have applied to most regions and classes.
49 C. K. Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (New Brunswick, NJ, 1987), 1.
50 Novarra, Women's work, men's work, 68.
51 Jefferys, ‘Married Women’, 361–4.
52 ‘Straight from the Shoulder’, She, June 1955, 72.
53 ‘Wake up, Women’, Sunday Graphic, Feb. 17, 1952. Emphasis in original.
54 A. Hunt, A Survey of Women's Employment (London, 1968), 89–90, 138–9.
55 For example, Cartwright and Jefferys, ‘Married Women who Work’, 160–1; Jephcott, Married Woman Workers, 97–8.
56 Pepperell, October 1958 speech, 5/SPG, Box 533, Six Point Group archive, Women's Library.
57 However, professional women usually (consciously or unconsciously) shaped their career to fit in better with family responsibilities. See S. Aiston, ‘A Good Job for a Girl? The Career Biographies of Women Graduates of the University of Liverpool Post-1945,’ Twentieth Century British History, 15/4 (2004), 361–87.
58 Jephcott, Married Women Workers, 106.
59 Quoted in Roberts, Women and Families, 127.
60 Zweig, Women's Life and Labour, 153.
61 Zweig, Women's Life and Labour, 18. See also examples in M. Stott (ed.), Women Talking: An Anthology from the Guardian's Women's Page (London, 1987), 30–48. Women at this point had a legal right only to their own earnings, not any household money they had saved.
62 Roberts, Women and Families, 127.
63 Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman, 36.
64 Yudkin and Holme, Working Mothers and their Children, 45.
65 For example, C. Black, (ed), Married Women's Work (1915, reprint, London, 1983).
66 See for example, L. Davidoff, ‘The Separation of Home and Work: Landladies and Lodgers in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century England’, in S. Burman (ed.), Fit Work for Women (New York, 1979); Black, Married Women's Work; Jane Lewis (ed.), Labour and Love (Oxford, 1986); C. Chinn, They worked all their lives: Women of the urban poor in England, 1880–1939 (Manchester, 1988), 96–9; E. Roberts, A Woman's Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890–1940 (Oxford, 1984).
67 Jephcott, Married Women Working, 106.
68 C. Hakim, Key Issues in Women's Work, 64–6. Hakim argues that part-time workers are almost always ‘secondary’ earners who matter less in the workplace than full-time workers and that women's pay still lags behind men because women choose to have a different relationship with the labour market than men do. However, she fails to account for how the cost and difficulty of obtaining childcare might leave women with less than a free choice. She also equates part-time work with inefficiency and lack of attachment to the work force.
69 H. Pott-Buter, Facts and Fairy Tales About Female Labor, Family, and Fertility (Amsterdam, 1993).
Full and Part-time Workers, Britain 1951–2001 (in thousands)
When, in the first days of August 1914, the five most powerful states in Europe entered the war, they brought about a situation that needed some justification to the public. Explanations for their own people in each country on the one hand, as well as those directed at global public opinion, especially in the neutral states, and particularly the United States. Already on the eve of the French-German War in 1870-1871, Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) had debated the declaration of war on 15 July 1870 in the French Parliament, the Corps Législatif:
With regard to politics at home, Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) established on 1 July 1915 that:
This article will discuss the ways in which German intellectuals tried to influence public opinion abroad and in their own country. It will also discuss the ways in which they tried to influence the government. Finally, it will consider the consequences of the war for art and literature, as well as the education of children.
Regarding the literature that addresses German intellectuals during the First World War, Klaus Schwabe’s 1969 study was epoch-making. He made evident two stages of public opinion, first in expectation of victory (1914-1916) and then in the presence of the military-political crisis (1916-1918), highlighting the connection between the war aims debates and political reforms in Prussia. This interdependence is emphasized by Steven Welch (2000) as a main cause for the German defeat, while Steffen Bruendel (2003) scrutinizes the idea of political unanimity in the beginning, for example Burgfriede (political truce) and Ideen von 1914 (ideas of 1914), and its gradual disintegration throughout the war. With regard to individuals it is noteworthy that there are more studies on the altogether less numerous liberal writers. Meanwhile there is excellent scholarship that addresses various aspects of the cultural developments taking place in artistic and literary realms during the war. Fundamental still is the impressive work of Helmut Fries (1994 and 1995), who studied the concept of moral crisis and decadence, which was widespread among artists and writers before the war and refered to their initial hope for a catharsis through war experience, and their inevitable disillusionment as the war dragged on. This line of research was followed by Barbara Beßlich (2000), who showed that the ideas of 1914 were prepared in many aspects already before the war. The works of Wolfgang Mommsen (1994 and 1996) and of Matthias Schöning (2009) deal in a wider sense with the developments of arts and literature in this period. Among scholars, special attention has been paid to the philosophers by Philippe Soulez (1988), Peter Hoeres (2004) and Ulrich Sieg (2013). It is remarkable that in the field of the philosophers comparative approach between the belligerent countries has been applied, which for many other aspects has to be desired yet. However, see the pioneering studies of Michael Jeismann (1992) on the concepts of national identity, and the corresponding Feindbild [Concept of the enemy] in France and Germany, Trude Maurer (2006) on the universities in war time, especially in Germany and Russia, and Stefan Goebel (2007) on the effects of medieval traditions in Britain and Germany. Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg and Wolfgang von Ungern-Sternberg (2013) consider the interdependence of several declarations made by intellectuals on both sides of the front in the beginning of the war. Finally, with regard to the disastrous consequences of the war for the international scientific community, the works of Brigitte Schröder-Gudehus (1966) and Karl Dietrich Erdmann (1987) continue to be fundamental.
Der Krieg der Geister (The war with spiritual weapons)↑
Whatever the true causes of the war were, with Germany’s declaration of war against Russia and France coupled with her invasion of Belgium, public opinion about Germany abroad was quite negative. In France, old clichés were immediately mobilized. Already on 8 August the philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941), said as the president of the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques:
Bergson had been popular in Germany before the war and knew the country well, but now he forewent his former knowledge. So did many of his colleagues in the states involved, who accused Germany of barbarism without any restriction. In response, German artists and professors soon started to explain the German point of view to foreigners in neutral countries. They wrote private letters to colleagues and composed booklets with large numbers of copies, which they sent abroad. In some cases there was an exchange of open letters, for example, between the economists Lujo Brentano (1844-1931) and both Yves Guyot (1843-1928) and Guyotand Daniel Bellet (1864-1918).
Even more important was a new kind of levée en masse: the composing of manifestos, which were subscribed to by many professors and artists. Often, these and other propagandistic activities were coordinated in the background by the bureaus of different states: for example, in England the War Propaganda Bureau in Wellington House, in France the Maison de la Presse, and in Germany, first the Nachrichtenbüro der Reichsmarine, which sponsored the Aufruf ‘An die Kulturwelt!’ (An Appeal to the Civilized World), and later the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst, in the Foreign Office. However, this was of little importance because the authors strongly believed in the content of the declarations, despite who was organizing their distribution. Historians at the University of Bonn started this trend with a declaration on 1 September 1914 and and English intellectuals followed on 18 September with Britain’s "Destiny and Duty", which was published in the Times with fifty-three signatures. The most famous manifesto, however, the Aufruf ‘An die Kulturwelt!’ signed by ninty-three prominent scholars and artists (therefore often also called ‘Manifest of the 93’), was published on 4 October. Six times assuring “es ist nicht wahr” (it is not true), they denied that Germany should carry guilt for the war, and also denied that Germany had wantonly violated the neutrality of Belgium and that German soldiers had committed war crimes in Louvain (Löwen). The authors of the Aufruf, Ludwig Fulda (1862-1939), Georg Reicke (1863-1923) and Hermann Sudermann (1857-1928), were liberal writers of the Goethebund, an association of intellectuals, who had fought for cultural freedom in Germany before the war. Now they protested against the accusation of barbarism arguing, in fact, that Germany should be considered a Kulturvolk. Pretending to know the truth they behaved in the same way as almost everyone in each belligerent nation at the time, but the stout assertion “Es ist nicht wahr” rapidly became a symbol for the arrogance of German professors. In vain, a few dissenters like Albert Einstein (1879-1955) and Georg Friedrich Nicolai (1874-1964), tried to publish an Aufruf an die Europäer (Appeal to the Europeans), in which they appealed to the intellectuals in all countries to work for peaceful understanding. Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) also reacted critically to these assertions in his O Freunde, nicht diese Töne! (Oh friends, not these tones!).
Other manifestos followed, for example the Erklärung der Hochschullehrer des Deutschen Reiches (Declaration of University Teachers of the German Empire) on 16 October, written by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848-1931) and signed by several thousand colleagues. In this case it is even more clear that the declarations from the autumn of 1914 should be read as being a part of a “polemical conversation”. In response to a British differentiation between Prussian militarism and German humanitarianism the signees felt obliged to emphasize their solidarity with the German armies fighting in war. But who, outside of Germany, could possibly appreciate such a reaction?
There were also several exchanges of letters and manifestos between Catholic and Protestant Christians living in the antagonistic countries. Because the French Catholics emphasized the war against Protestant Germany, the German Catholics had to show that they could, at the same time, be loyal to the catholic community and to their fatherland. On the other hand the German Protestants underlined their Lutheran heritage, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress is Our God). But all Christians in the belligerent countries tried to proclaim a holy war drawing on symbols from the medieval times on. However, whereas in Britain the offensive concept of a new crusade played an important part, the German Christians emphasized the sacrifice for their homeland in the name of defending their Heimat. Since the beginning of October, the Zentralstelle für Auslandsdienst in the Foreign Office tried to coordinate all these activities. At the same time, the Kulturbund deutscher Gelehrter und Künstler (Cultural Association of German Scholars and Artists) was founded with the mission to influence public opinion abroad.
The problem was that nobody could really tell what Germany was fighting for, except for its own preservation and its position as one of the leading powers in Europe. England and France could mobilize the universal ideals of equality and freedom, i.e. the “ideas of 1789” (as they were called at this time in Germany in contrast to the “ideas of 1914”) and claim to fight for democracy (leaving aside the alliance with the tsar of Russia). Germany could not decline these attractive ideas. They could only try to explain their own cultural and political preferences, which were not well suited for export. Consequently, public statements made by intellectuals were increasingly geared towards the German public.
First, many speeches and papers in universities were made with the goal of strengthening the unity of the nation. Wide-spread was the conviction, that German Kultur had to be defended against western civilization as Thomas Mann (1875-1955) argued in his Gedanken im Kriege (Thoughts in Wartime) (1914) and Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (Reflections of a Non-political) (1918). Gradually the ideas of 1914 were further developed. This expression was first coined by Johann Plenge (1874-1963). By this time these ideas were widely accepted by many, such as Rudolf Kjellén (1864-1922) or Ernst Troeltsch. Two experiences formed the basis for these ideas: the national harmony that appeared suddenly at the beginning of the war, known as Augusterlebnis (August Experience), and the efficient organization of the economy for the necessities of the war, for which Walter Rathenau (1867-1922) was responsible. Therefore‚ western individualism had to be replaced by comradeship, society by community (Gemeinschaft), and the contrast between capitalism and Marxism by socialism of the state in war (Staatssozialismus and Kriegssozialismus). Instead of the “western” conception of liberty, the “idea of German liberty” was developed: the voluntary integration into an organization. All this did not deny the ideals of liberté, égalité, fraternité but claimed to adapt them to the special German nature, or way of life (deutsches Wesen). The ideas of 1914 also had some roots dating back to the pre-war period. They were also drawn on to shape the conception of a specific German approach to development adopted in the 19th century called deutscher Sonderweg (German exceptionalism), which was in contrast to the rest of Western Europe.
Many of these speeches and articles resulted from the heated atmosphere of war, and were therefore idiosyncratic and drew on shortsighted analysis of the problems of the day. They neither fully accounted for the political shortcomings of Imperial Germany nor did they realistically discuss the objective superiority of the combined forces of the Entente with regard to industrial capacity and manpower. But there were also remarkable efforts to analyze the German past and present as Louis Dumont (1911-1998), a specialist of modern India with an outside perspective observed:
At the beginning of the war there was an immediate and strict censorship of the newspapers by the commanders of the Army Corps, and beginning in February 1915, also by the Supreme Censorship Office (Oberzensurstelle) of the High Command (Oberste Heeresleitung). Public discussion of possible war aims was especially prohibited. However, the censorship was not as strict for books and periodicals, and in any case, memoranda and petitions to the government were still allowed. Thus, in an informal way, intellectuals gained more political influence than usual. Campaigns in the Affaire Dreyfus and the agitation of the Goethebund against the Lex Heinze had helped to prepare this effect. The ideas of 1914 were central to the debate. These ideas originally had to explain and defend the special social and political system of the German Empire and to proclaim national concord. With the extension of the war discussions about the war aims and about the necessity of political reforms inevitably took place, especially in Prussia. These discussions were connected, because monarchists and radical Pan-Germans (Alldeutsche) hoped to stabilize the political status quo through a victorious war with great territorial annexations.
In the first period of the war, many overestimated the importance of German victories and developed plans for the expansion of the Empire. This was especially true in the case of Belgium, whose annexation or control as a protectorate was considered as a defensive measure against Great Britain in the case of future conflicts. One of the first memoranda was that of Matthias Erzberger (1875-1921) on 2 September 1914, which called for far-reaching annexations in Eastern and Western Europe and substantial reparations. This very much resembled the political goals of the Pan-Germans as they were formulated in the so-called Seeberg Adresse of 20 June 1915, which included 1,347 signatures (352 university teachers). The author was Reinhold Seeberg (1859-1935), professor of theology in Berlin, but he collaborated with the leader of the Alldeutsche, Heinrich Claß (1868-1953), and the industrialist Alfred Hugenberg (1865-1951). The moderate Delbrück Adresse of 9 July 1915, written by the historian Hans Delbrück (1848-1929) and the editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, Theodor Wolff (1868-1943), was signed only by 141 persons.
The idea of Mitteleuropa (Central Europe) gained significant attraction through the book of Friedrich Naumann (1860-1919), published in 1915. However, the conception of a continental European block under the hegemony of the German Empire, intended to establish a balance against the British and Russian Empires, was also developed by Franz von Liszt (1851-1919) and Max Weber (1864-1920). Others, such as the Baltic Germans Theodor Schiemann (1847-1921) or Paul Rohrbach (1869-1956), focused more on the simultaneous disintegration of the Russian Empire and an increasing autonomy of the Eastern nations, under German influence, of course, but also in combination with a new colonization of German peasants in the Baltic region.
There were also a few intellectuals who struggled from the beginning of the war for a peace based on the status quo (Verständigungsfrieden). Some of them were organized in the Bund Neues Vaterland, for example Albert Einstein, Ludwig Quidde (1858-1941) and Walther Schücking (1875-1935). Already in 1915 Schücking heavily criticized his colleagues’ declarations. Many of them became members in the Deutsche Gesellschaft 1914 (German Society 1914), founded on 28 November 1915, which aimed to conserve the spirit of national harmony in the beginning of the war. In reality, however, the scholars split into two separated camps as a consequence of the addresses in summer 1915: the annexionists like Seeberg and Dietrich Schäfer (1845-1929), organized in the Unabhängiger Ausschuss für einen Deutschen Frieden (Independent Committee for a German Peace) and aiming for a Siegfrieden (Victory Peace), and the moderates, like Hans Delbrück, organized in the Deutscher National-Ausschuss für einen ehrenvollen Frieden (German National Committee for an Honorable Peace), who preferred a Verständigungsfrieden (Negotiated Peace). However, even this group was not entirely against German annexations in the East. Some of the annexationists like Schäfer and Eduard Meyer (1855-1930) were protagonists for the declaration announcing the unrestricted use of submarines on 1 February 1917, which was one of the main reasons that the United States chose to participate in the war.
As the war dragged on and the food situation deteriorated, the debate about the future political structure of the German Empire became more and more urgent. One of the first writers was Hugo Preuß (1860-1925), who wanted to replace the Obrigkeitsstaat (Authoritarian State) through the participation of all citizens in a Volksstaat. The main target of the reformers was the Dreiklassenwahlrecht (three-class electoral system) in Prussia. Answering propositions of Friedrich Meinecke (1862-1954), Max Weber and others, the Chancellor of the Empire, Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg (1856-1921) promised reforms in the Reichstag on 27 February 1917, but only very vaguely. The same was true in the subsequent Easter message (Osterbotschaft) delivered by the Emperor.
Problems of foreign policy and of inland-reforms merged, when the Reichstag adopted a motion introduced by Erzberger from the Zentrum and some leading social democrats for a Verständigungsfrieden (Negotiated Peace) or Friedensresolution (Peace Resolution) on the 19 July 1917. In reaction to this, Schäfer, Meyer, Georg von Below (1858-1927) and other scholars founded the Deutsche Vaterlands-Partei (German Fatherland Party) on 23 August 1917, with Grand Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (1849-1930) as its chairman. It was not a party in the strict sense, but an extreme nationalistic movement in opposition to the majority of the Reichstag. The Reichstag was supported by the moderates, who gathered forces in December 1917 in the Volksbund für Freiheit und Vaterland (National Association for Freedom and Fatherland). Both movements turned obsolete with the November revolution of 1918, but they did anticipate the political controversies in the republic of Weimar. The left side of the political spectrum split in the same way. The leaders of the Social Democratic Party were heavily criticized by many for their extensive support of the government without any substantial political concessions. The Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) was founded in April 1917. Even the more radical Spartacus group around Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) and Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) joined this grouping for tactical reasons.
The idea that there was a general enthusiasm in the belligerent countries at the outbreak of the war has been modified by scholars in the last decades. Only some crowds in the capitals joyfully greeted the war, whereas farmers and workers saw no advantages in leaving their farmsteads and families. But for many intellectuals the sudden experience of national harmony was a moment of relief, which was combined with the agreeable feeling that they were needed in this situation. People confronted with fundamental changes brought about by war were eager to listen to the speeches of scholars and the sermons of clergymen, as well as to read poems and essays.
First there was a flood of poems, now primarily forgotten except for three of the most unique: Grodek, which focused on the cruelty of war, by Georg Trakl (1887-1914), who died in a military hospital in Cracow, the “Haßgesang auf England” (Song of hatred to England) by Ernst Lissauer (1882-1937), and the romantic song “Wildgänse rauschen durch die Nacht” (Wild Geese Rushing Through the Night), which Walter Flex (1887-1917) inserted in his widely distributed book Der Wanderer zwischen beiden Welten (The Wanderer Between Two Worlds) (1916). Lilli Marleen, written by Hans Leip (1893-1983) in 1915, turned popular only during the Second World War.
Many writers greeted the end of decadence with hopes for catharsis through the Stahlbad of the war. They pleaded for a revival of national culture and argued against foreign influences in art and literature, or against Ausländerei (Love for everything Foreign). That was especially curious in the case of Ludwig Fulda, who had been decorated with the légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour) for his translations of French literature. However, like the scholars, the poets tried to minimize all foreign influence, which included ignoring what they had learned abroad previously, and also forgetting their foreign friends living in the now hostile countries. The continuous exchange of letters between Romain Rolland (1866-1944) and Stefan Zweig (1881-1942) remains unparalleled. Even for them, however, it was sometimes difficult to reach a true mutual understanding, because they had incomplete information about the events of the war, especially the accusations against German behaviour in Belgium, or respectively, Russian behaviour in Galicia.
Some authors like Richard Dehmel (1863-1920), Ludwig Ganghofer (1855-1920), Hermann Löns (1866-1914) and Robert Musil (1880-1942), entered the army as volunteers and wrote about their experiences. Especially the young expressionist poets and painters felt attracted to the war as redemption from their monotonous daily life. Many died on the battlefields, including Alfred Lichtenstein (1889-1914), August Macke (1887-1914), August Stramm (1874-1915) and Franz Marc (1880-1916).
While some writers, such as Hermann Bahr (1863-1934), Rudolf Borchardt (1877-1945), Gerhart Hauptmann (1862-1946) and Thomas Mann, were in support of the ‘official’ German point of view, others were reserved or even critical. For example, Heinrich Mann (1871-1950) in his essay on Émile Zola (1840-1902), and Annette Kolb (1870-1967), René Schickele (1883-1940) and above all Karl Kraus (1874-1936), who wrote Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (The Last Days of Mankind), between 1915 and 1922.
The most influential books were written only after the war: Ernst Jünger’s (1895-1998)In Stahlgewittern. Aus dem Tagebuch eines Stoßtruppführers (Storm of Steel. From the Diary of a Strike Team Leader) (1920) and Erich Maria Remarque’s (1898-1970)Im Westen nichts Neues (All Quiet on the Western Front) (1929). The same was true for the fine arts, Ernst Barlach (1870-1938), Max Beckmann (1884-1950), Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959), all took part in the war and artistically reprocessed their experiences afterwards in dreadful pictures of the war. Most impressive is the Triptychon Der Krieg of Otto Dix (1929-32) housed in the Dresden Gallery.
Official war-painters were sent to the front, for example Max Slevogt (1868-1932) in the West, who was rapidly disillusioned, and Hugo Vogel (1855-1934), the portraitist of Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934) in the East. One of the more original responses to the absurdity of the war was Dada, a loose association of artists and writers, which started in 1916 with the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, and became very influential for the development of modern art. Among its first members were Hugo Ball (1886-1927), Emmy Hennings (1885-1948), Tristan Tzara (1896-1963), Hans Arp (1886-1966), Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943) and Richard Huelsenbeck (1892-1974).
The war also led to a rapid development of propaganda by means of new mass-media. Photographs and post-cards illustrated the war in official and censured pictures. Posters were widely used to propagate the legitimacy of one side, but especially to advertise war-loans, which were absolutely necessary in order to finance the war.Cartoons were used to expose and ridicule the enemies. For the German film-industry the war was crucial. Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937) fully appreciated the significance of the movies for the Anglo-Saxon propaganda. Consequently, on 18 December 1917, the Universum Film AG (UFA) was founded, which played a very important role for the German film industry over the next decades.
Special attention was paid to children. In a way, German history text-books had a similar problem as that of the German intellectuals with respect to their French colleagues: It was quite impossible to find a ‘German mission’ for the world, as France had done drawing on the heritage of the French Revolution. Therefore they were more concerned with promoting loyalty to the state and the dynasty according to the ideas of 1914. However, there were indeed a lot of books for children on the subject of the war.
The assurance to carry out a bellum iustum (just war) may be as old as war itself, and we can find debates about the guilt of war dating back to antiquity. In 1914 however, immediately after entering the war, it was evident that this debate had received a new dimension. The need to justify a war between millions of not only soldiers, but citizens, which affected the entire population, not only in the belligerent, but also in neutral countries, was urgent. While England and France could claim a universal mission to fight for democracy and freedom, Germany neither had such a mission nor was it clear what the objectives of the war were. As a result, the German arguments were on the one hand rather defensive and in a way even idiosyncratic. On the other hand, however, they were often more thorough and accurate in reflecting on the national character of Germany at the time. Most people outside of Germany were unable or unwilling to appreciate this quality. The consequence was an embitterment on the part of many Germans, which was additionally nourished by the defeat and the revolution in November 1918, the Treaty of Versailles, and the boycott of the German scholars by the international League of Academies in the next decade. In this way, the Krieg der Geister of 1914-18 had a disastrous and continuous impact on the subsequent events.
Jürgen von Ungern-Sternberg, University of Basel
Section Editor: Christoph Cornelißen
- ↑“In a very long time of peace there cannot be so many absurd and untrue utterances of men as in a very short time of war.”) Unless stated otherwise, all translations are by the author.
- ↑“Because there is one thing I notice about our century: that we can no longer make war capriciously; it is necessary that nations, who watch the war like witnesses in a duel, approve you , that they support its esteem and its vows. It is necessary, in a word, to have the world’s opinion on side.” Ollivier, Émile: L’Empire libéral. Études, récits, souvenirs, vol. 14, Paris 1909, p. 435.
- ↑“Democratized nations make wars only as wars of the whole people, only on the basis of moral reasons which are evident to everybody [...] The natural consequence therefore is, that such nations want only to make wars as defensive wars in order to maintain or to preserve their nation in its political existence or in its spiritual-ethical content.” From “Der Kulturkrieg”, in: Deutsche Reden in schwerer Zeit, vol. 3, Berlin 1915, pp. 218f. By the way, it was clear for Troeltsch, that Germany in that sense was a democratized nation.
- ↑For example Eberhard Demm (1990) on Alfred Weber, Stefan Meineke (1995) on Friedrich Meinecke and Bernd Sösemann (2012) on Theodor Wolff, but cf. Kurt Sontheimer (2002) on the conservative Thomas Mann, and Jens Ackermann (2004) on the reactionary Dietrich Schäfer.
- ↑Kellermann, Hermann: Der Krieg der Geister. Eine Auslese deutscher und ausländischer Stimmen zum Weltkriege 1914, Dresden 1915 continues to be the most comprehensive collection for the first months of the war.
- ↑Clark, Christopher: The Sleepwalkers. How Europe went to War in 1914, London 2012.
- ↑Mélanges, Paris 1972, p. 1102.
- ↑Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 3 November 1914, Morgenblatt.
- ↑Ungern-Sternberg, Jürgen von: Wie gibt man dem Sinnlosen einen Sinn? Zum Gebrauch der Begriffe “deutsche Kultur” und “Militarismus” im Herbst 1914, in: Mommsen, Wolfgang J. (ed.): Kultur und Krieg. Die Rolle der Intellektuellen, Künstler und Schriftsteller im Ersten Weltkrieg, Munich 1996, pp. 77-96.
- ↑Pfeilschifter, Georg: Deutsche Kultur, Katholizismus und Weltkrieg, Freiburg 1915; Besier, Gerhard: Die protestantischen Kirchen Europas im Ersten Weltkrieg, Göttingen 1984.
- ↑Hammer, Karl: Deutsche Kriegstheologie 1870-1918, Munich 1971; Scheidgen, Hermann-Josef: Deutsche Bischöfe im Ersten Weltkrieg, Cologne 1991; Goebel, Stefan: The Great War and Medieval Memory. War, remembrance and Medievalism in Britain and Germany, 1914-1940, Cambridge 2007.
- ↑A well-known source for this is: Deutsche Reden in schwerer Zeit, 3 vols., Berlin 1914-1915; Hintze, Otto et al. (eds.): Deutschland und der Weltkrieg, 2nd edition, 2 volumes, Leipzig and Berlin 1915.
- ↑Reed, Terence J.: Thomas Mann. The uses of tradition, Oxford 1996, pp. 179-225.
- ↑Der Krieg und die Volkswirtschaft, Münster 1915.
- ↑Die Ideen von 1914, Leipzig 1915.
- ↑Die Ideen von 1914, in: Die neue Rundschau 27 (1916), pp. 605-624.
- ↑To learn more about the influence of these ideas on German literature in the war and during the republic of Weimar see Schöning, Matthias: Versprengte Gemeinschaft. Kriegsroman und intellektuelle Mobilmachung in Deutschland, 1914-1933, Göttingen 2009.
- ↑In contrast to the brillant analysis of Émile Durkheim, Lavisse, Ernest: Lettres à tous les Français, Paris 1916.
- ↑L’idéologie allemande. France-Allemagne et retour, Paris 1991, p. 60 n.1.
- ↑These texts are inseparable from the conditions of the war during which they appeared. The German intellectuals tried eagerly to answer the challenge of enemy’s propaganda, which in their eyes was terrible, but their seriousness in these efforts is equally impressive as is the importance of this literature from wartime for my purpose – especially, but not exclusively, the studies of Troeltsch.
- ↑With the lex Heinze the conservative and Catholic parties of the Reichstag (the German Parliament) tried to introduce censorship for modern movements in art and literature since 1899. Against this purpose many artists and scholars protested. In 1900 they founded the Goethebund in several cities, e.g. in Berlin and Munich, in order to organize their opposition in this case as in further similar attempts. The Goethebund was still active in 1914.
- ↑Naumann, Friedrich: Mitteleuropa, Berlin 1915.
- ↑Die deutschen Professoren und der Weltkrieg, Berlin 1915.
- ↑Das deutsche Volk und die Politik, Jena 1915.
- ↑Meinecke, Friedrich: Die Reform des preußischen Wahlrechts, in: Probleme des Weltkriegs, Berlin (1917), pp. 83-125.
- ↑See the description by Zweig, Stefan: Die Welt von Gestern. Erinnerungen eines Europäers, Stockholm 1942 (The World of Yesterday, New York 1943).
- ↑Cf. the local studies of Stöcker, Michael: Augusterlebnis 1914, in Darmstadt. Legende und Wirklichkeit, Darmstadt 1994; Geinitz, Christian: Kriegsfurcht und Kampfbereitschaft. Das Augusterlebnis in Freiburg. Eine Studie zum Kriegsbeginn 1914; Fulda 1998; Raithel, Thomas: Das “Wunder” der inneren Einheit. Studien zur deutschen und französischen Öffentlichkeit bei Beginn des Ersten Weltkrieges, Bonn 1996 and Verhey, Jeffrey: The spirit of 1914. Militarism, myth and mobilization in Germany, Cambridge 2000.
- ↑Bab, Julius: Die deutsche Kriegslyrik 1914-1918. Eine kritische Bibliographie, Stettin 1920.
- ↑Literally: bathing in a chalybeate spring; Figuratively: the experience of gun fire or shelling.
- ↑Ausländerei, Berliner Tageblatt, 3 September 1914 (A).
- ↑Briefwechsel 1910-1940, 2 vols., Berlin 1987.
- ↑For example, see Rolland in his letter from 15 March 1915: “Your letter shows to me once again, that it is quite impossible to converse by letters about political matters. Because each of us knows only one side and does not know anything about the other one.” He continues hopefully: “Later on when we are able to exchange freely our different knowledges we will come nearly to the same judgments, that’s my conviction. But for the moment it is impossible.” Unlike others Rolland and Zweig were able to handle the problem.
- ↑Die weißen Blätter 2, 1915, 1348-1349.
- ↑Debrunner, Albert M.: Freunde, es war eine elende Zeit! René Schickele in der Schweiz 1915-1919, Frauenfeld 2004.
- ↑For the afterlife of the war of culture in the Third Reich see the useful contributions in: Krumeich, Gerd (ed.): Nationalsozialismus und Erster Weltkrieg, Essen 2010.
- ↑For the possibility of falsifications cf. the classic essay of Avenarius, Ferdinand: Das Bild als Verleumder. Bemerkungen zur Technik der Völkerverhetzung, Munich 1915; for a special case (after the war) see Krumeich, Gerd: Hitler dans la foule, 14-18 in Noêsis, Revue annuelle d’histoire 1 (1998), pp. 8-12.
- ↑Rother, Rainer (ed.): Die letzten Tage der Menschheit. Bilder des Ersten Weltkrieges, Berlin 1994; Der Weltkrieg 1914-1918. Ereignis und Erinnerung, Berlin 2004 (exhibition-catalogues); Also, a good case-study is Bruendel, Steffen: Vor-Bilder des Durchhaltens. Die deutsche Kriegsanleihe-Werbung 1917/18, in: Bauerkämper, Arnd and Julien,Elise (eds.): Durchhalten! Krieg und Gesellschaft im Vergleich 1914-1918, Göttingen 2010, pp. 81-108.
- ↑Demm, Eberhard: Der Erste Weltkrieg in der internationalen Karikatur, Hannover 1988.
- ↑Oppelt, Ulrike: Film und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, Stuttgart 2002.
- ↑Bendick, Rainer: Kriegserwartung und Kriegserfahrung. Der Erste Weltkrieg in deutschen und französischen Schulgeschichtsbüchern (1900-1939/45), Pfaffenweiler 1999.
- ↑Demm, Eberhard: Zwischen Propaganda und Sozialfürsorge – Deutschlands Kinder im Krieg, in: idem, Ostpolitik und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, Frankfurt 2002, pp. 71-131.
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