Women and the Welfare State

  • Stephanie Spencer


For those of us who were children during or after the 1950s it is difficult to appreciate the radical changes wrought by post-war welfare provision. That the welfare state provisions were based on assumptions of what are often referred to as ‘traditional’ gender roles was by no means uncontested and if William Beveridge had not been such an assertive chairman of the Interdepartmental Committee on Social Insurance and the Allied Services, the 1950s story might have been very different. It has now become a truism to highlight the changes that the Home Front caused in women’s lives in all social classes, but it does seem to have been acknowledged at the time that this was likely to be a long term change, not a temporary flight from domesticity:

In this war we have millions of women going into industry, hundreds and thousands of them for the first time, single women and married women. They have enjoyed an income of their own, they have begun to enjoy economic independence. At the end of the war a large number of them will want both their careers and marriage and motherhood, and we have to base our plans for reconstruction on that.1

The introduction of a welfare state was central to plans for post-war reconstruction which were initiated in the early 1940s.2


Gender Role Welfare State Married Woman Family Allowance Domestic Role 
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Copyright information

© Stephanie Spencer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie Spencer
    • 1
  1. 1.University College WinchesterUK

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