Women and Leisure in Manchester, 1920-c.1960

Langhamer, Claire Louise (1996) Women and Leisure in Manchester, 1920-c.1960. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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The focus of this thesis is the complex relationship between women and the category `leisure', a relationship which is only infrequently addressed within the historiography of leisure and only partially understood within the existing frameworks of that field. The research draws upon feminist scholarship to establish a fluid theoretical structure within which the leisure experiences of women may be better conceptualised, and re-thinks the methodologies necessary to access those experiences within a defined historical period: that of 1920-1960. Throughout, `leisure' is approached less as self-defined, discrete activity, and more as a mutable category, open to changing meanings and inseparable from its contextual and historical background. To this end, the nature of `leisure' is itself problematised: the study challenges definitions of the concept as directly oppositional to work/workplace and explores the problems inherent in the notion that leisure constitutes
a reward for paid labour. Indeed, the sources suggest that `leisure' and `work' often interacted within women's lives and that notions of leisure as something `earned' had a fundamental impact upon women's experiences over the life cycle.
The thesis is built around interviews with Manchester women from working-class and lower middle-class backgrounds. However, it also uses local newspaper evidence, women's magazines and the contemporary work of a number of researchers with an interest in leisure during the period. The study examines changing experiences of leisure and shifting perceptions of the concept across social classes and over the historical period. It presents a picture of leisure at the local level, whilst suggesting a chronology of leisure which has implications for our understanding of the national experience. The
fundamental originality of the project rests in its approach; it offers a holistic, life cycle based, approach to a field which largely consists of research of a topic-based nature. The central findings concern the role of life cycle stage in determining the relationship of women to leisure across both period and social classes. In particular, the thesis explores how the transition from youth to adulthood impacted upon women's ideas of appropriate leisure behaviour and entitlement, and asserts that a contrast may be drawn between the personal leisure of youth, and the `family' leisure of adulthood.

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