Working Lives

Maria Davis 1940s to 50s (part 2)

Maria Davis started work as a sales assistant at John Lewis in 1948.

Independent Women

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Peter Jones catalogue model wearing patterned dress and large hat (May 1957)
Peter Jones fashion (May 1957)

In other ways, the position of women had improved by the time Maria celebrated her twenty-first birthday in 1954 with promotion, getting an exciting new job as section manager.

Thanks to better methods of birth control, families were now smaller, though they remained large among the working class. There was no way Maria was going to follow her mum and have six children! In middle class homes, gas and electric cookers and vacuum cleaners (see Gadgets and Style) multiplied after the war. But in working class homes, housework remained very hard and very manual, and Maria didn’t want to work all day in the store and slave all night at home.

By the 1940s, middle class women had less servants, but still, few wealthier married women went out to work. It remained the lot of working class women at John Lewis, like Maria Davis, to attend their ‘betters’. By the end of the 1950s, half of working class women went out to work.


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