Family 1951

A family photo c.1957
A family photo c.1957
The same family names that appeared in Stowupland in the 1850s are still there in the 1950s. This suggests that families did not move far away from the village. Many of those with Stowupland family names have also not moved socially as they were still doing the same sort of jobs as their fathers and grandfathers.

This decade is fondly remembered by many as a golden age of decency and strong community ties. Suffolk was not as badly affected by World War Two as other areas of Britain, although a large part of Stowmarket’s high street was destroyed by a German bomb in 1940.

Families Stayed Together

Divorce rates were low; it was very difficult and expensive to get divorced. Unhappy marriages were not unusual. There were 33,000 divorces in Britain in 1950 compared with 155,000 in 2000. Children were expected to behave and it was not unusual for them to be told off by a non-family member.

In the village, families tended to live with their nuclear family – mother, father, brother, sister – rather than their extended family. Families were also smaller. The average number of children per family was 2.2 in 1952 as opposed to 5 to 6 children throughout the nineteenth century.

Gender Roles

1950's Electricity Advert
1950's Electricity Advert
In the 1950s the father of the family was seen as the main breadwinner and head of the household with the mother as the homemaker.

Women's magazines encouraged women to stay at home, taking on the role of the perfect model wife.

The Oxo advert from the fifties of ‘Katy’ in her pretty white apron cooking her husband’s dinner is a great illustration of the ideal family in 1951.

However, Britain was not perfect in this ‘golden age’. There was deprivation, chauvinism and discrimination even in small villages such as Stowupland.

Many companies and organisations would not employ a married woman in the early 1950s as people believed that the jobs should go to men coming out of the armed forces. Women had been an important part of the workforce during WW1 and WW2 and there was resentment that many had to go ‘back to the home’. This situation did not last for long after WW2 as it became apparent that women were needed out at work to keep Britain’s economy running.

Living Longer

Life expectancy in 1950 had risen yet again and was 66 years for men and 70.9 for women.

The  Stowmarket Gas Works
The Wilding Family in the 1950s ©MEAL

This exhibition is part of a wider sustainability project delivered through the Rural Museums East Partnership. It is funded by Renaissance East of England.

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