Breadwinning: accounts of work and family life in the 1950s
Source TitleLabour and Industry
University of Melbourne Author/sMurphy, John
AffiliationArts: The Australian Centre
Document TypeJournal (Paginated)
CitationsMurphy, J. (2002). Breadwinning: accounts of work and family life in the 1950s. Labour and Industry, 12(3), 59-75.
Access StatusOpen Access
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The breadwinner model became pervasive in the post-war years in Australia. While this was built upon long-standing policy ideas of the ‘family wage’ and cultural ideas of gender identity, the pervasiveness of the breadwinner model also reflected its spread within the working class as a consequence of the prosperity of Full Employment. This article draws on in-depth narrative interviews with men and women about their ideas of work, family and gender identity during the 1950s. It focuses on the ways masculinity was bound up with the norms and expectations of being the breadwinner. The research suggests that while the experience of being a breadwinner was not markedly different across classes, the narratives and language through which men describe what being a breadwinner means do show class differences. Middle-class men tended to use a language of breadwinning as taken for granted, while working-class men were more likely to claim an ideological or normative commitment to being the breadwinner. Similarly, there are marked differences in the extent to which being a breadwinner also meant men were domineering within the family, though this had little to do with class. These differences are also less significant than the fact that the attitudes of both middle- and working-class men were firmly within the dominant gender culture of the period.
Keywordsmasculinity; breadwinning; post-war full employment; narrative; interviews; gender relations
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