1950’s Girls Annuals: the Homemaker

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Seventy years on from when the girls annual of the 1950’s were being read in the  pink bedrooms of the post-second world war generation we look back at there content. Where they looking to inspire the girls who would grow up to lead second-wave feminism through the seventies, or were they looking to indoctrinate the next generation of Housewives?

Girls literature of the 1950’s painted a world of domestic bliss. The role of sewing, the adoration of flowers and the wearing of impractical clothing prevailed across the pages of mid-century girls annuals. Poems encourage the practice of cleaning, baking, being house-proud, having the most perfect hair and awaiting the kiss of a man. The role of the party planner is put forward, a caregiver role projected. However, not to be forgotten in Britain, the concept of making tea in a crisis is ever-present.

Pressures on young girls to be lady-like

The continual pressures on young girls to be lady-like. Any matters of rebellion from this notion are lame and akin to stories of naughty schoolgirls. Images of impractical sports clothing, skirts worn for tennis and golf. Dancing is in full costume and skiing is shown to be gentle and relaxing. With sports like rowing, women simple sit back as men take the oars. Similar scenes are shown with motor vehicles, males are strong and take the wheel, steering away from danger and girls watch on. Generally, the women are beautiful, appear to be sunning themselves as the men do all the work. They are gorgeous, pale-skinned, flushed cheeks with bouncy blond hair adorning their slim bodies. Looks of women pleading with men as they carry all the heavy items. Delicate women prevail as they receive kisses on the hand from admiring men. Many of the tales inscribed simply escalate to men saving the day as the women look on in awe.

Boys literature of the period was in starch contrast to that of girls. They masqueraded daring adventures, escapades and the dangers of warfare so prevalent on the minds of those growing up in the years which were the aftermath of World War Two. Presenting depictions of action sports, space exploration and tackling monsters. Many of the tales bore similarities to the ever-popular Westerns of the time, cowboys, Indians and hunting. Cops and Robbers was an ever-present theme. We were also introduced to the world of large, expensive motorcars, Bentley’s of the era. Top athletes, racing and highly competitive sports dominated the pages of the 1950’s annuals. Men were shown to be strong and capable, getting into fights and adventures took place across the globe. Incidentally, many of the representations of black people were tribal in origin. Images of women seem simply to depict a gorgeous girl who sits there as the man wins her with his actions. Cigars are also present, as a male indulgence, not something to be discouraged. Work and logic puzzles were headlined around ‘Shoot’ and ‘Hit’, evoking a strong sense of competition. Practical skills were encouraged through narrative’ around tools and making exercises were played out.

Contemporary girls literature has modified immensely from the 1950’s. Positive, empowering statements ‘I can’ and ‘You can do anything’ embrace our pages. Girls are now dressed as action figures and take on space exploration. Females from ethnic minorities are now included and girls vary greatly in their appearance. We are presented with different faith groups and the idea of unconventional family groups are put forward. Those with disabilities are shown and take on powerful roles.

Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them.

Inspirational positions and occupations are presented as life choices. Becoming a ‘Leader’ is suggested, women are no longer here simply to do as men instruct them. Positive real-life role models are presented through photography and text. Girls are shown to be practical, using tools and building projects. The former male domains of math’s and science are promoted, the aesthetics of wearing goggles for experiments put in a positive light. Environmentalism is a new agenda, current affairs and politics are embarrassed. Tea parties are now of the fair trade variety and healthy pursuits of foraging for food are encouraged, taking from the male hunter, gatherer role. Making projects develop skills in science, numeracy levels and encouraging activism.

The nostalgia of the fifties is enjoyable to re-collect, the role of the mother and the home-maker not to be discredited, contemporary girls literature id clearly more inspirational. Modern-day girls Annuals promote positive female aspirations, leadership and activism, not being lady-like and waiting for a man to save the day. Female literal sources which will create a more positive power balance for women of the future.

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Will you be my Bride, McBride

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‘Will you be my Bride, McBride’ is an extract from the latest chapter being written from the novel ‘Casual Nexus’ from Alison Little:

Will you be my bride, McBride

Jack was around his best friends house, Huxley McBride, they have finished school for the day. It was early September and they had just started in the upper school. Although neither of them showed any real interest in academic work or any of the subjects they had selected to take, they preferred things as the teachers were more relaxed and there were no more detentions. They were playing Atari against each other, although Jack was more skilful, Huxley always beat him as he owned the games console and had more time to practise. Jack only had a cheap version which his Dad had picked up at a car boot sale which only let you play simple games like tennis and golf. He had tried asking for one for his Birthday but Mum had said that it was ‘Too expensive’. He’d always got bigger Birthday presents before Callum and Sal had come along. When he had talked over this with Mum and claimed it was unfair she had explained that money for presents had to be split around all of the ‘Kids’ in the family so there wasn’t as much to spend on him individually. He had a solution for Christmas, he’d get Callum to agree to a joint Christmas present then he would lay off any fight games until after the New Year when he had his Atari in place. He usually got Callum to go along with what he wanted. He’d tried Sal many times to get her to go for what he wanted but she always said ‘No’ and went along with what she wanted. She was such a selfish little girl and he wished she had never come along. He swore she always got more clothes brought for her than he did, when he asked Dad about it he claimed that it was because she was a girl and couldn’t really wear the boy’s clothes that had been handed down.

Huxley always had everything, all the latest consoles, new release videos and designer brand trainers. Their house was the largest on the Private Road next to the Council Estate where Jack lived. Had Dad was a drummer in a top band which had made it big in the seventies, they were still selling out gigs now over a decade later. They could afford everything, the latest models of whatever came out, they even had a dishwasher. Jack had actually used it a few times, just for fun to see how it worked. The one thing that Huxley didn’t have which Jack had was a Mother. She had left the family never to be seen or heard from ever again before Huxley had even started school. He said that he could remember her but rarely talked about her or why she left. Jack thought that not having a Mother around would be fun. They had the run of Huxley’s house most of the time as his Dad was rarely there and he basically let Huxley and any of his friends have the freedom to do anything they wanted.

Huxley’s younger sister Caitlin came into the front room after entering through the back door, she had just started their secondary school this September. She was late back as she had stayed for she had stayed for the compulsory ‘Must go to netball practise’ session all girls attend when they start secondary school. She was full of energy and life, laughing as always. Unlike Huxley, she missed her Mother not being their greatly, but she made the best of things, ensuring she was always giggling and joining in with games.

She had her jumper tied around her waist, Jack looked towards the blossoming buds of her breasts. He noticed how they had developed further since the summer, they were becoming more than a handful. They were in fact much bigger than that of many of the girls more his own age, three years older. Although she wasn’t a particularly beautiful girl she wasn’t unattractive either. She was a little flabby around her belly, although he talked with the other lads about all the hot girls he fancied and how he often ‘Wanked off’ while listening to Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’, he actually prefers girls with more fat on them. Yes, her ripening breasts will do nicely he thinks to himself.

Caitlin asks Huxley if she can play the winner of the game, he says ‘No’ which he has a tendency to do with everything she requests. Like Jack, he has little time for his family members and would prefer it if they were not there at all. Huxley asks Jack if he is coming outside for a cigarette. Although they had virtually a full run of the house it was still better to smoke outside, his Dad didn’t like the smell of nicotine. Jack ponders over the offer but decides to decline, choosing to remain in the sitting room with Caitlin.

As Huxley lights up Jack tells Caitlin she can come and play Atari with him. She sits down beside him Jack watches her skirt rise above her knees. As the game starts Jack shows little response to the grid form defenders dropping down the TV screen. Jack begins to prod Caitlin, again, the rhetoric:
‘Will you be my Bride, McBride?’
As the Packmans on the screen munch forward, Jack clasps his thumb and forefingers into Caitlin’s bosom,

‘Get off,’

she responds and pushes him hard away. Huxley hears the commotion and looks through the patio doors to observe Jack fondling Caitlin. He laughs to himself and looks the other way as he finishes his cigarette. Inside Jack continues to pester Caitlin, he runs his hand inside her skirt. The muscles in his groin strain as his hands touch the gusset of her pants. Caitlin now battles with him and punches his hand away as she shouts;

‘Get off, get off.’

She manages to break free from Jacks grasps and runs upstairs at a full pace almost falling over the top step as ascends. Into her room, she slams the door then pushes the bedside table against the framework. She sits on her bed, heart pounding with her knees tucked up to her chin.

Alison Little

Keys

Keys Image copy

Keys is the latest flash Fiction work from Alison Little.

Keys

Around us we are surrounded by keys, hung from every section, floating around, spinning. Shadows brightly identified by the white surfaces which are the parameters of our encasement in this heaven -like cell. The keys float and dangle head height like angels in an outer world. The jingles and rattling almost ghost-like, jitters of evil coming to take us from the purity of our setting. Clattering faster and faster, more and more in motion together, louder and louder, machine gun like in battle, will we be taken?

Subtly they quieten down, jingle in serenity again, bell-like, the instruments of the piano, not one of the devils jailers on a dictated mission to take us to him. We are safe within the white purity of our surroundings, the playful clacking of the brass and steel instruments of secure captivity. The tags which identify their uses, the fobs which fumble and the enlarged shadows which follow their leaders every move. Sounds which surround, which inform, which provide safety but exclude us from freedom.

A dreamscape of soulfulness suspended in our vision and the recipients of the routes of sound waves. Serenity, shadows and the safety of celebration.

Alison Little

Keys was written in response to an art installation all named ‘Keys’ created by Raymon Watson for the History of Hands exhibition held at the Victoria Gallery & Museum in Liverpool. In this, a collection of keys originally from the Crumlin Road Prison were suspended and used in conjunction with a sound installation. The exhibition ran from the 10.03.18-21.04.18.

History of Hands Exhibition

Victoria Gallery & Museum

Grown Up Rug Rat

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These are the latest song lyrics being worked on from Alison Little

Grown Up Rug Rat

Saxon curls flow from my head

Skin glows with innocent Beauty

I sleep safely near the parental bead

From birth, I have never been naughty

 

At twenty I have toddler style body actions

Arms stretched up ahead of me

Biting my lip, an infants reaction

Skipping with excitement, full of glee

 

My Daddy wears a Senior Officers Hat

My Body is perfect, I have never been Fat

Oh I never liked Post Man Pat

I am a grown up Rug Rat

 

At twenty I have toddler style body actions

Arms stretched up ahead of me

Biting my lip, an infants reaction

Skipping with excitement, full of glee

 

Trying my best to make friends at Uni

The other girls seem so grown up

They have boyfriends, they can dance sexy

Alcohol is their fuel, orange juice I sup

 

My Daddy is a High up Copper

After Uni I will work for the Police full time

They won’t expect me to try and stop a robber

Or do anything about Rape crime

 

I have been part-time Police for years

I monitor swear words, their usage in reality

The Force does everything to protect me from my fears

My tears wiped away when I cry they copied me

 

My Daddy wears a Senior Officers Hat

My Body is perfect, I have never been Fat

Oh I never liked Post Man Pat

I am a grown up Rug Rat

 

At twenty I have toddler style body actions

Arms stretched up ahead of me

Biting my lip, an infants reaction

Skipping with excitement, full of glee

 

Daddy and I agree, I will remain a virgin

I shall never get my own flat

At twenty I stand, adulthood never immerging

I am a grown up Rug Rat

Jane

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Jane, the sculptural form was exhibited for IN:VISIBLE women, full-day conference held at Liverpool Central Library on Friday the 27th October. Simply Jane was the accompanying fictional works read at the event, both were created by Alison Little in autumn 2017.

The following piece was commissioned by the Liverpool Irish Festival, from artist Alison Little, as a contribution to its work about In:Visible Women. It is a fictional piece of writing, created to help readers consider the effects of sexual violence towards women. Although it will echo some experiences, it is not ‘the definitive story’, nor is it specific to a real individual. We raise this not to diminish its value, but to assure readers that no survivor’s story is being misused. This piece is also supported by an artwork, which will be on show during the In:Visible Women day (Central Library, Fri 27 Oct 2017, £5).

Due to the sensitive content relayed in the following piece, relating to sexual violence and rape culture, we advise reading on with caution.

Simply Jane

Jane awakens. Her eyes bolt open, so much so it feels as though her upper lashes are laid flat against her eyebrows. The eyes almost detach from their position as the globes project up towards the ceiling, her pupil’s forefront in their position. Wide awake in panic again from the last eight weeks and four-days since it happened.

Although a chilly night, as they often are in County Cork, she was sweating intensely. Her groin was wet and the undersides of her flowering breasts were drowned in perspiration. She feels down between her legs, wishfully hoping that the damp may be ‘Me Auntie Bid’ finally arriving, six weeks and approximately three days late. She could only feel perspiration, no thicker substance, her optimism fades away as she faces the reality of being with child.

Still anxious, twisted in her bodily position, she begins to think about it again; what happened on that ill-fated night eight weeks and four days ago. She was at a sixteenth birthday party, not far away, just the next village. It was her best friend’s shindig, they had all brought what beer, cider and wine they could get hold their hands and one of the travellers had jigged in with a bottle of Poitín.

In her innocence Jane had got tipsy on the drink, then tipsier, finally slipping into inebriation. One of the older fellas had been dancing with her. She didn’t really know who he was, he must have been from a village in the opposite direction. As she became a little stilted in her motion, he placed his hands on her hips, then guided her towards the open front door. As the cold air had hit her she began to sober up. On his suggestion they went to sit in the barn.

As they sat on some crates he began to tell her she was a ‘Wee Doll’ and how the blue of her dressed matched her eyes. After brushing his wet lips quickly across hers he produced an unopened half bottle of Jameson’s. He opened the lid and took a quick swig before passing it over to Jane:

‘Come on have some’, enticing her into becoming drunk again.

The next thing Jane can remember is that he is on top of her, back flat against the concrete as he fumbles around her dress as he tries to remove her knickers. Jane tries to squirm and say no but he pushes himself into her, she can’t move as he protrudes into her virginal body.

After he had finished, he moved to one side and appeared to fall into a drunken slumber. Jane manages to stand slowly, edging out the barn, away from the light and noise from the party, down long country lanes, bushes each side, moon half visible, night owls coo-ing in the distance, to her village, her front door, her room, bed, her fear.

She lies in that bed tonight, thoughts rushing through her mind about her one sexual encounter. The one she had not wanted and the one which had left her bearing child. She tosses over in bed again, her mind engulfed with thoughts about how to end this ordeal.

Abortion pills? She could order online, but are they safe? What if she gets caught having them delivered? It was such as small village, the Post Man knew everybody and the Post Mistress was always chin-wagging and may even open the package.

Her parents finding out seemed bad enough, but she could even be locked up by the Garda. She could travel to England or the Netherlands; a cheap flight from Ryanair could get her to Amsterdam. Can she get enough money for the operation?

She had no-one to talk to. Her friend who had sprung the party had found her knickers and the barn and all the girls at school seemed to know that something had happened, she felt like they were calling her a ‘Floosie’.

She wanted a ‘babby’ one day. It was his baby she didn’t want. Every day she lived in fear of seeing him again, smelling him again. Even the remnants of her Dad’s malt from his glass brought on the urge to vomit now. The vision of him and the memory of her inability to move as he forced into her innocent body… She thinks of how this baby would remind her of him. It could grow up to look like him, possibly even act like him.

She turns in bed again. She had no choice. She couldn’t have this baby, but how and when could she terminate the pregnancy? An owl, outstretched, screeches in the distance. She envisages the black eternity of the sky under its expanse the owl looking down on her as a minuscule speck; alone amidst the wrongs of the World which make up human existence.

If you have been affected by the contents of this piece, please consider consulting one of the services below:

Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (RASA) – this is a Mersey based support service, rather than a national service. Please see below for more on wider support services rasamerseyside.org +44(0) 151 666 1392; helpline@rasamerseyside.org If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

NHS – Sexual assault and violence services are available in most UK cities. To help to locate a service near you, the NHS have a service locator, which you can access using this webpage (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017): http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealth/Pages/Sexualassault.aspx

Abortion Support Network – if you – or a friend – requires access to abortion support services from Ireland, Northern Island or the Isle of Mann, the Abortion Support Network may be able to assist – asn.org.uk To call from Northern Ireland +44(0)7897 611 593; from Ireland +44(0)15267370 (calls only, no texts) and/or from the Isle of Man +44(0)7897 611593 or email info@asn.org.uk If using email, please be mindful of the security of your account and other people’s access to it.

Victim Support can offer assistance with how to handle reporting a crime as well as helping you through the legal procedures of pursuing a charge. For more details of how to use these particular services, use this link https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017).

If you are supporting someone you know to have survived a violent, sexual encounter, there are some interesting and useful points in this online article, from The Everyday Feminist (successfully accessed 18 Sept 2017): https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/01/how-to-help-sexually-assaulted-friend/

This is not an exhaustive list of services available or resources you can access, but we hope it may serve as a start point, where needed, for anyone experiencing, supporting or hoping to assist survivors with their ongoing needs, health and wellbeing.

Liverpool Irish Festival

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New Embroidery Course Announced

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Embroidery from Photography

4-week course running throughout November, Saturday 4/11/17-25/11/17 from 2-4pm situated at 1 Rose Lane Studios.

Cost £12 per session.

Session 1

Discussion around suitable subjects for embroidery piece, walk to Sefton Park to take a range of photographs, digital camera an advantage for participants but one will be available. Images downloaded and suitable ones chosen, run through graphics software then printed to a fabric.

Session 2

Introduction to a range of embroidery stitches, work on small samples. Begin work on final pieces using stitches learned earlier in the session.

Session 3

Continue to work on final pieces, group discussion around choices of stitches selected.

Session 4

Edge finishing techniques demonstrated, use of re-purposed frames for presentation. Introduction to the commercial aspects of working as a textile artist based in the North-West.

Contact to book your place.