Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Do you remember March 1970?

1970 saw the passage of the equal pay act a major step in women's rights . The legislation was the result of the pressure applied to the Labour Government by actions such as the strike at Ford's Motor Company over equal pay- the subject of the film “Made in Dagenham . Job adverts of the time are a good place to start looking at the obstacles that females faced in the workplace. In Leek women with families were encouraged to apply for the “Housewives Shift” , an innovation in employment practices, at Weston Street Mill. Female typists were required for Thomas Boltons at Froghall and at Gush and Dent a “keen young lady” was needed. The evidence that men and women were paid differently was apparent. In March a report of the Association of Manufacturers and Dyers published their minimum pay rates for a 40 hour week, for Men the rate was £14 and for women £11. It should be said that local Trade Unions were not overtly concerned in closing the gap as they tended to be male dominated

An unspoken social problem was domestic violence and the 70s saw it for the first time being debated openly. During March 1970 the local paper reported two cases in Leek and Cheadle. One of the incidents was described as a “domestic tiff” The book “ Scream Quietly or the neighbours would hear” was published in the decade. Erin Pizzey detailed her experiences of establishing a woman’s refuge in West London. (Her belief that the problem of violence against women was widespread is born out of my own experiences in Stoke. As a child I once see a woman attacked in the street.}  As she wrote in the introduction to her book “ as long as the myth of the Princess and the frog continues then young women will believe that a good woman can save any man and the ugly frog will turn into a Prince”.

Language was an important weapon in objectifying women. Young women attending a weekend Duke of Edinburgh course were referred to as “Dollies”. The Dollies in question -28 young women- spent a weekend at Ilam Youth Hostel taking courses on make up, cake decoration and fashion. Even in well meaning examples, the words used can be jarring to the modern ear. The principal of Leek College congratulated Leek woman Catherine Turner who had been selected to visit the USSR and study education methods going on to say that “she was part of a memorable band of housewives who had pioneered day classes for GCE exams”.

Domesticity was a quality prized and it was a attribute nurtured across the area by Women's Institutes- at the height of their popularity- where there was a perceived need to pass on housewifery skills across the generations. The WI had branches in most communities. In Rushton they had a talk on the new decimal coverage starting up the following February. Greenaway Moor were shown a film of Max Bygraves promoting Dutch Cheese, Tean a session on cake making. Mothers Union added to the sense as they pledged to perform their duties “they owe their husband, their children and their God”. At schools girls were taught domestic science concentrating on home making reinforcing the traditional role of women

Leek Ladies Hockey team were going from strength to strength in the early spring of 1970. After defeating Newcastle they had become the undisputed champions of the county. In this victory they had relied on three goals from Patsy Allen centre forward, The reporter was of the opinion that they had won because, “they had greater fire power up front and they commanded the centre of the field with the authority of an all conquering army”

Ali Barba's Club in Milton were running regular strip shows on a Tuesday alternating with a stag comedian. One can presume it was not a very sophisticated night out and little prospect of the “Second Sex” or “Female Eunuch” being discussed