The book, Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes, follows on from Nicholson’s previous project, which looked at roles of women in the 1940’s. Prior to that she undertook a study of women in the 1920s and 1930s. “I guess you could say I’m writing a history of women’s lives through the 20th century,” she says in summation of her work.
The 1950s book, however, has been particularly important to Nicholson. She was born in the mid-50s and witnessed her mother’s life as a housewife in that decade. Her research involved speaking to a number of women from Sussex, now in their eighties, about their experiences. “Intelligent women who could have made a great deal more of themselves, but instead married and ended up spending their days scrubbing their husbands’ overalls.
“The title of the book tells you a lot, I think. It’s about women who had high expectations placed on them, which they found impossible to live up to. They constantly felt they were falling short. It was so much harder to nd a sense of yourself back then; everything was de ned in terms of who you were in relation to men. Sure, there was a feminist movement, but it was very quiet and polite. There were women who felt they should and could have the same opportunities as men, but they didn’t feel they were entitled to make those claims.”