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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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BBC Archive marks International Women's Day with two new online collections

  • Just why was it illegal for a woman to enter a coffee bar on her own after midnight in 1971?
  • Why eloping teenagers in the 1950s endangered their morals on the way to Gretna Green
  • Any Questions panel from the 1950s debate when a woman becomes a spinster
  • In the 1960s was "living in sin" proof that you were modern or proof that you were depraved?

The BBC has gone into the archives to release two new online collections, as part of its plans to mark International Women's Day.

Reminding us of the roots and motivation of the women's movement in the UK, these newly-digitised news reports, TV programmes and radio broadcasts highlight the media's understanding of women at the time and reveal just how far the women's movement has come in the last few decades.

Marriage: To Have And To Hold In The 1950s And 60s not only recalls the celebration of love and domestic life for which these decades were famous but also charts the cracks that began to appear in the institutions of marriage and the family. This story is continued in the second collection, Second Wave Feminism: Issues, Attitudes And Opinions, which goes back to the heady days of the 1970s when the struggle for women's rights was high on the political agenda but many entitlements that are taken for granted today were still a long way off.

The production of these new BBC Archive collections is just one of the ways in which the BBC is marking International Women's Day.

BBC Four is showing a new three-part documentary, Women, by acclaimed film-maker Vanessa Engle, starting Monday 8 March at 9.00pm, and next month BBC One is showing A Passionate Woman, written by Kay Mellor and starring Billie Piper, about two stages in the life of a wife and mother who falls in love with her Polish neighbour.

Programmes on BBC Three also look at the culture clash faced by many young British women today.

Jana Bennett, Director of Television & Digital Media, BBC Vision, said: "These programmes offer a fantastic snapshot of the differing roles of women in society across the ages. The BBC strives not only to showcase major British female talent but also to provide excellent education resources with archive programming and insightful documentary strands."

These collections are the latest in a series to be released online exploring the cultural and political developments that shaped the 20th century.

Marriage: To Have And To Hold In The 1950s And 60s and Second Wave Feminism: Issues, Attitudes And Opinions are available from 8 March and can be viewed by visiting

Notes to Editors

The BBC Archive is one of the largest multimedia archives in the world and is held in 27 locations across the UK. As well as holding close to a million hours of TV and radio programmes, it also has six million still photographs, over four million items of sheet music and over 500,000 documents and records.

The BBC Archive website allows you to explore over 80 years of UK and BBC history. Programmes, documents and images bring the past to life and reveal forgotten stories, available to UK audiences. For more information, visit:

These collections feature 30 television and radio programmes. Highlights include:

Marriage: To Have And To Hold In The 1950s And 60s

Programmes provide an intimate view into the hopes and dreams of real people, both married and single, from the trendy students who believe marriage is a dying institution to the housewives who are rushing home to get the dinner on. The cruelty of the pre-1964 divorce laws are revealed as men and women whose partners won't admit to a "matrimonial offence" recount the years they have spent trapped in loveless marriages. Teenagers "endanger their morals" by running away to Gretna Green to get married.

Second Wave Feminism: Issues, Attitudes And Opinions

A Nationwide report that reveals unaccompanied women weren't allowed to buy a late-night cup of coffee. An edition of Open Door, the BBC's community access programme, which features an impassioned attack on "unfeminine, liberated'" women. Interviews with key feminists including Germaine Greer, Kate Millett, Marilyn French and Juliet Mitchell. A news report showing that a student newspaper greeted a march advocating the right of women to be free from violence and assault with the headline "Could You Rape this Woman?"


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