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1950 - 1959


The 1950s were very much the decade of domesticity. Most women's lives revolved around their homes and families as they took advantage of new technologies and the consumer boom.

In the world of work, women teachers and civil servants won the principal of equal pay and the decade saw Britain 's first woman bank manager, TV newsreader and managing director of an advertising agency.

In the USA, Rosa Parkes galvanised the black civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. In the UK, Claudia Jones founded the West Indian Gazette and the Notting Hill Carnival. In 1953, The Kinsey Report into women's sexual behaviour caused shock waves around the world while Dr Spock started a revolution in how to raise your child.

Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch made their debuts as novelists and at King's College London, research carried out by Rosalind Franklin was key to the discovery of DNA.

1950

Elizabeth David (1913-1992) publishes Mediterranean Food, her first cookery book.

  

1950

Olive Hirst (1912-1994) is appointed to the board of management of Sells Ltd, making her the first woman on the board of an advertising agency. The following year she becames Managing Director.

  

1950

India gives votes to women.

  

1950

The photographer Grace Robertson (born 1930) is taken on by Picture Post. She begins her documentation of everyday life in Britain. 

  

1951

Doris Lessing (born 1919) publishes her first novel The Grass is Singing.

  

1951

The American photographer Eve Arnold is the first woman to work for the celebrated Magnum photographic agency.

  

1952

Molecular biologist Rosalind Franklin  (1920-1958) takes up her post at King's College and becomes key in the discovery of DNA.

  

1953

American aviator Jacqueline Cochrane (1910 - 1980) is the first woman to break the sound barrier. 

  

1953

Equal pay is introduced for women teachers.

  

1953

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900- 1990) becomes the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly.

  

1953

After being internationally acclaimed for many years, artist Frida Kahlo (1910-54) is finally invited to exhibit in her own country, Mexico.

  

1953

Lita Rosa becomes the first woman in Britain to reach Number One in the charts with How much is that Doggy in the Window.

  

1953

Ann Davison (born 1912) becomes the first woman to sail single-handed across the Atlantic.

  

1953

American sex therapist Alfred Kinsey publishes his highly controversial report, Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female.

  

1954

Iris Murdoch (1919-1999) publishes her first novel, Under the Net

  

1955

Mary Quant (born 1934) opens her shop Bazaar on the King's Road, London.

  

1955

The Women of the Year Lunch is founded by Tony Lothian.

  

1955

Dame Evelyn Sharp becomes first woman permanent secretary in the civil service as Head of the Housing Ministry.

  

1955

Rosa Parkes (born 1913) makes history on 1 December when she refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a bus, in Montgomery, Alabama. This sparks off the black civil rights movement in America.

  

1955

Barbara Mandell is the first woman to read the news on ITN.

  

1955

The government agrees to equal pay for civil servants, though this is not fully implemented until 1973.

  

1955

On 13 July convicted murderer Ruth Ellis is the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

  

1956

Egypt and Tunisia give votes to women.

  

1956

The National Childbirth Trust is founded to prepare couples for childbirth and parenting.

  

1957

Journalist Mary Stott (1907 - 2002) sets up the Guardian  Women's Page. She remains editor until 1972.

  

1958

Claudia Jones  (1915-1964) sets up the West Indian Gazette, and the Notting Hill Carnival.

  

1958

Hilda Harding becomes the first woman bank manager at Barclays in Hanover Street, London.

  

1958

For the first time ultrasound is available to examine unborn babies.

  

1958

The Life Peerages Act entitle women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time. On 21 October Baroness Swanbourough, Lady Reading  and Baroness Barbara Wooton are the first to take their seats.

  


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