What was the life of a British girl really like?
August 3, 2010 6:57 AM Subscribe
How can I learn about life as a normal British girl from the mid 1800s on through to the 1960s?
posted by Mizu to society & culture (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is research for a fairly epic story that has been brewing in my head for quite some time.
I'm an American and although I have a fairly good sense of world history, I'm not comfortable in my knowledge of British cultural details, and the life of normal girls is something that you don't find too much in history books. Although I've always enjoyed reading classic British children's literature, and in fact have a long-standing interest in J.M. Barrie and his associates, I never really have formed a clear picture of what it would have been like to be a teenager or a young woman in England any time earlier than the modern era, around the 1960s or so.
Also, of course, there's a big difference between classes - I'm mostly interested in people who weren't particularly rich, but could afford to "keep a household", although this could require adjustment as I write my story. I'm interested in girls from around age 10 to their mid 20s, or whatever would be considered a full grown woman at the time.
One of my areas of preexisting knowledge lies in the Jewish diaspora of the late 19th and early 20th century, and I understand to a certain extent what life was like for British Jews (and other begrudgingly welcomed immigrants) of that time, but I'm not interested in that angle for this story. I also have a solid grounding in art history, with a hearty appreciation for the Arts and Crafts and Scottish Art Nouveau movements, but again, this is an aspect that is rarefied and has little bearing on the typical experiences and lifestyles of normal people of the time.
Are there nonfiction books about the lives of young women (young men would also be of interest to me, but not as much) of that time period, with things about how they went to school, what they wore, what they were expected to do in the household, and so-on? Are there any good fiction books that would give me a clear sense of the time period as well? I've read lots of Victorian children's literature, with the various heavy handed allusions to Jesus and the morals and the symbolism, and they've always struck me as completely unrealistic. Websites, movies, and other sources of information would be good, too.
I'd love really detailed information about things, like what a girl at certain ages was expected to know how to do, what sort of romantic styles of courting and the common slang relating to these activities were allowed, what a girl's relationship to her mother and father would be like, where they would sleep and what they would sleep on, what sort of things were particularly different from an American girl of the same time period, and of course, how all of these things changed over time in the century I'm interested in. I've only touched on the tip of the iceberg of what I'm interested in. If there's a big fat heavy textbook out there for me to read, or maybe a collection of correspondence, that would be fabulous. I've had this story bubbling in my brain for going on five years now, and it's time I get started on it, and do it right.
Thanks for helping me out, Hivemind! Remember, keep calm and carry citations.