Working Lives

Shelley Gibson 1960s to 80s (part 1)

Shelley Gibson started work as a clerical assistant at John Lewis in 1979

The Swinging Sixties

John Lewis worker helping female customer try on blonde fashion wig (1960)
Girl trying on wig (1960)

In the 1960s, the so-called ‘swinging sixties’, the Women’s Liberation Movement began to change relationships between men and women. Family and work roles began to change, even for working class women. A woman’s chances of making independent choices was helped greatly by the introduction of the contraceptive pill.

Illustrations showing two female models wearing underwear (1975)
Jonelle underwear (1975)

Womens' clothing was ‘liberated’ too. After generations of wearing bone-crushing corsets and underwear with stiff elasticated under-panels, the more carefree lifestyle of the 1960s created a need for bright, easy-to-care-for underwear. New nylon briefs proved very popular. They were often sold in matching sets with bra, briefs, and half-slips in eye-catching, colourful prints.

Illustration from Peter Jones advertisement showing two feamle models wearing fashioanble 1960s clothes
Peter Jones fashion 1960s

In the 1970s, the campaigns for equal pay and equal rights in the workplace were at the centre of feminist activities. In 1970, the Equal Pay Act dictated that women received the same pay for the same job as men. The Employment Protection Act 1977 extended employment rights for full-time workers to all those working a 16-hour week, or 8 hours if in the same job for five years. This was of particular help to women, who were still more likely to work part-time than men.

By 1979, when Shelley Davis began work in the offices at John Lewis, women’s average wage earnings were 74.8 per cent of men’s – still unfair, but a big improvement on the days when her mum and granny earnt half as much as men for doing the same job.