Meeting Report – “Facing the Hardships”: Mixed Race Relationships and Women’s Magazines in 1950s Britain, by Anna Maguire

Thank you again to Anna Maguire for sharing her new research project with us. Anna has just finished her PhD and is exploring postdoc opportunities. Providing us with extracts from agony aunt pages in Women’s Own and Woman Magazine, she discussed how mixed race couples were perceived in Britain in the 1950s. In 1948 the Empire Windrush docked in London carrying men from Jamaica and marked the first of many recruits from the commonwealth. She explained that in this context of immigration to Britain from its overseas territories, mixed race relationships challenged colonial and racial boundaries.

Usually, the letters in the agony aunt pages were from white women in relationships with black men on subjects such as a girl’s parents not allowing her black boyfriend into the house. Mothers would also write in to question their own attitude to their daughters mixed race relationship. One mother stated that she is happy for her daughter to date her partner, yet she draws the line at marriage. The theme of parental control is a recurring feature both within the context of mixed race relationsips and others – women under 21 were not allowed to marry without their parents’ consent! Differences in religion and class were also raised as a concern.

One interesting example of the time which Anna provided was a letter sent by a white girl who wanted to marry a black widower who was many years her senior. She was unsure how or whether to tell her parents. The agony aunt, rather than challenging why anyone should disapprove of such a relationship, instead confirms the girl’s fears. She advises the girl to wait until she is older since her relationship may just be a crush. The agony aunt underlines that the relationship must be strong enough to survive the social pressure and that mixed marriage is a great risk.

We wish Anna the very best of luck with her project – we look forward to hearing how her research on this interesting topic develops!

We will see you next week for our very last seminar of the academic year 2016/2017. Sophie and I (Maria) will be handing over the running of the network very soon. We’d love to see as many of you as possible for our last seminar in charge, we’ll really miss running the network. The paper is by Mariana Howell, in the English Literature department at Southampton. The title is ‘Experience of Time and Subjectivity in Modtherhood Writing’. We hope to see you there!





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