A woman’s work.....

Little Christine Eccles likes to help her mother Doreen with the washing which is much easier now the family have a washing machine. June 1958
Little Christine Eccles likes to help her mother Doreen with the washing which is much easier now the family have a washing machine. June 1958
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BEING a mum of two, working and studying for a degree – all at the same time – would have been unthinkable in the 1950s.

But in 2012, it wouldn’t be too unusual.

To mark the end of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, energy supplier npower has launched an online archive called Remember How We Used To, inviting members of the public to show how our lives have changed, particularly in the home.

In the 1950s, women would spend whole days cooking and cleaning, as high-tech gadgets, such as washing machines, tumble dryers, microwaves and vacuum cleaners, were the preserve of the lucky few.

To examine how lives have been transformed by energy over the last 60 years, npower commissioned Warwick Business School to compile a report on the topic.

Findings show women of the 1950s spent a staggering 50 hours each week on housework – 12 more than the average full-time job today.

In comparison, women in 2012 spend an average 18 hours a week on housework – 62 per cent less than 50 years ago.

According to Warwick Business School, these differences are largely due to mass electrification in the 1950s and the boom of labour-saving appliances in the 1960s.

Homes today have three times as many appliances and gadgets compared to a typical 1950s household.

In the 1950s, only three per cent of homes had a refrigerator, meaning women would have to undertake food shopping on a daily basis and in the absence of a supermarket and fresh food was bought from a number of individual shops.

Meanwhile, only just over seven per cent of homes had the luxury of a washing machine, meaning tubfuls of laundry were done manually and on a daily basis, while water for baths was often heated in a boiler powered by the coal fire.

Liz Wilson, advertising officer, at Blackpool and the Fylde College, is very much the model of a modern mum.

The 48-year-old, who lives in Thornton, works 33.5 hours a week, as well as taking care of her son Declan, 17 and daughter Lydia, nine and juggling all the usual household chores.

A few years ago, she even managed to do a degree while working and bringing up her two youngsters.

She said: “I think the good thing now is we have a choice.

“Women can choose to work or choose to stay at home – if it’s financially viable of course. There just seems to be a lot more flexibility than there would have been in the 1950s.

“I wanted to work after having children, I did reduce my hours when they were younger.

“When my son was born I had about five months off, but went back to work. I enjoy working.

“I have two days a week where I finish early to pick my daughter up from school and spend some time with her.

“I would say I probably only spend an average of eight hours a week on housework, but my mum, who is retired does come to help me out, which makes life a bit easier.

“I even did my degree while working full-time and looking after the children.

“I think all the technology, equipment and appliances we have now enable us to juggle things and do give us that flexibility.

“I can’t imagine how you would manage and go to work, without a washing machine or a tumble drier.

“In the 1950s, they would spend all day doing the washing. I remember my mum telling me about the twin-tub washer they had.

“Now we can just run the Hoover or the Dyson round on the carpet, rather than have to beat the carpet.

“Not to mention all the modern-day cleaning products, which make life easier for us all.

“And cooking - in the 1950s they didn’t have microwaves or ready-prepared food or ready meals.

“They had to cook everything from scratch.

“I think in those days, people also took more pride in their homes – my mum and nan told me about people sweeping their front steps, cleaning the window sashes regularly.

“And shopping, we just go to the supermarket these days, but back then, the women didn’t have cars.

“They had to walk to the shops and buy what they could carry home at a time, perhaps every day.

“Everything now makes it easier for women to go to work.

“There are pro’s and con’s to both times.”