For better or for worse? The dilemmas of unmarried motherhood in mid-twentieth century popular British film and fiction

Fink, Janet (2011). For better or for worse? The dilemmas of unmarried motherhood in mid-twentieth century popular British film and fiction. Women's History Review, 20(1) pp. 145–160.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09612025.2011.536396

Abstract

This article investigates representations of unmarried motherhood in the late 1940s and early 1950s through readings of popular British film and fiction. These sources are used to illustrate contradictions and conflicts in the meanings afforded to unmarried motherhood and, in turn, to highlight how the unmarried mother was used as a motif for exploring post-war normative boundaries around marriage, motherhood, and female sexuality. The article draws upon Raymond Williams’ idea of a ‘structure of feeling’ to make connections between these representations and issues and debates about the role and status of women and mothers more generally in post-war Britain.

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