Like Mother, Like Daughter

Posted on: 15 April 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Today’s young women have more social freedom than ever – so why do they want to turn back the clock and be more like us?


The last hundred years have witnessed huge changes in women’s lives. Social freedoms are now taken for granted, a far cry from the turn of the last century when a woman’s place was invariably in the home. 

By the 1920s, women started to be freed from the tyranny of long-lasting chores thanks to the spread of automatic labour saving devices such as washing machines and the introduction of the first ever washing powder. 

At the time, with no television or internet, armies of ‘expert washers’ visited 6million housewives every year to better acquaint them with their modern labour saving technology.

It seems hard to believe now but housewives were initially reluctant to do away with the wash tub and washboard so in every large town or city across the UK a Persil Institute was set up where millions of people could take in two articles of clothing for a free demonstration wash! In that time of course we’d also been given the vote - not to mention Coco Chanel’s little black dress.

Service in WWII established a new precedent for women and mothers going out to work, and increasing numbers of us began working away from home, with increasing rights for women in the workplace.

Today, women of our daughters’ generation apparently enjoy the accumulated benefits of these liberating developments, and many more that have occurred since.

But according to a major new report on women’s changing roles and attitudes published by Persil to coincide with its centenary, they think the freedoms they’ve inherited have come at a price. They’re now looking to women of our age and older as role models for an earlier ideal of domesticity that they want to replicate themselves. 

According to the study, nearly half of us think today’s younger women have an easier time than we did. Likewise, more than six in ten women of our daughters’ generation acknowledge that they have more freedom than we enjoyed at their time of life.

However, a fifth of them regret their lack of proficiency at homemaking skills with a quarter becoming increasingly attracted to spending more time in the home,  hankering for the ‘domestic goddess’ status they perceive us as having enjoyed.  

Whether it represents the beginnings of a widespread return to traditional standards remains to be seen.

For now, you can find out more about how women’s roles in society have changed over the course of the last century from the video celebrating the last 100 years below. Taking in major events from WWII to the swinging ‘60s and beyond, it’s a fascinating tale in every respect.


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