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The Fifties Mystique

The Fifties Mystique [Kindle Edition]

Jessica Mann
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'Jessica Mann analyses the decade with forensic precision - stripping away the rose-coloured specs for good' --Daily Mail

'thoughtful and emphatic ... a richly readable and persuasive piece of work' --Spectator

'She recalls the grime of the 50s: endless stinking nappy buckets; smog; inadequate washing facilities; body odour whenever people were crowded together. She recalls boredom and isolation, and suspects both the child-rearing experts and the government of a concerted push to get mothers back home after the war, so that there would be jobs for the returning 'boys'. And she recalls the unacceptability of talking, or sometimes even knowing, about sex, female anatomy, and cancer. She is bang on' --Baroness Neuberger, Jewish Chronicle

Product Description

Many young women 'long to put the clock back to the post-war years when life seemed prettier and nicer'. In this book Jessica Mann demolishes such preconceptions about their mothers' or grandmothers' young days, showing that in reality life was uglier and nastier. Born just before WW2, she describes growing up in the post-war era of austerity, restrictions and hypocrisy, before anyone even dreamed of Women's Lib. The Fifties Mystique is both a personal memoir and a polemic. In explaining the lives of pre-feminists to the post-feminists of today, Jessica Mann discusses the period's very different attitudes to sex, childbirth, motherhood and work, describes how she and other young women lived in that distant world with its forgotten restrictions and warns against taking hard-won rights for granted.

About the Author

Jessica Mann has been a controversial commentator and critic since first appearing on Radio 4’s Any Questions in the 1970s. She is the author of 20 crime novels and three non-fiction books; as a freelance journalist her features, weekly columns, numerous travel articles and book reviews have appeared in national newspapers and glossy magazines. She is the crime fiction reviewer of the Literary Review, and as a broadcaster has appeared on Question Time, Any Questions, Start The Week, Stop The Week, Woman’s Hour and many other programmes.

She has held a series of public appointments to do with the NHS, Utility Regulation, Employment Tribunals, Town and Country Planning and the Arts.

Jessica divides her time between Cornwall, where she lives with her husband the archaeologist Professor Charles Thomas, and London.

She has two sons, two daughters, and 11 grandchildren.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 396 KB
  • Print Length: 196 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: (26 April 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CKCC27U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #23,549 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jessica Mann was born and went to school in London, then took degrees in Archaeology and Anglo Saxon at Newnham College, Cambridge and 10 years later, as a mature student, in law at Leicester University. Jessica started writing what she liked (and still likes) reading - crime fiction - and her first book, A Charitable End, came out in 1973. Since then she has published 21 crime novels, 2 non-fiction books, thousands of articles and book reviews and a book about Godrevy Lighthouse written with her husband, the archaeologist Charles Thomas. She has been a regular broadcaster on programmes including Any Questions, Question Time, Woman's Hour, Round Britain Quiz and so on. Jessica and Charles have 2 sons, 2 daughters, 11 grandchildren and live in Cornwall.
To keep up with what Jessica is writing, take a look at her website,, and her blog on

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Jessica Mann 1 April 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book tells the post-Feminist generation what it was really like in the fifties, why we needed Feminism so very badly, and why we must do everything in our power to protect it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking reading 20 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In this fascinating book, Jessica Mann gives an account of what life was like for women in the 1950s. It makes for compelling reading and I can't imagine any woman, after having read this book, express a yearning to return to those days and be a "captive wife." It is hard for those of us born after the 1960s to imagine what it must have been like: limited educational and work opportunities, complete financial dependence upon your husband, the devastating consequences of a pregnancy outside of marriage and the eternal domestic grind without the labour saving devices we take for granted today are just some of the aspects which Mann covers.
I read this book with a mixture of fascination, horror and a heartfelt appreciation for the times I live in today. Highly recommended for women of all ages.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 3 May 2012
A real eye opener for those who take today's equality of the sexes very much as a given. Vivid descriptions of pre-machine drudgery and the boredom of the diurnal round, of the ignorance brought about by prudery- of how recently things were so very different, and less good, for women. A lovely read, in short chunks or as a whole. The author's voice comes across loud and clear and determined to correct nostalgic rose-tinted views of those bad old days.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An embarassing reminder! 5 May 2012
I was born just after the war and I am mortified to be reminded of the limited hygiene we took for granted! Jessica Mann's book is full of such reminders - and I have given copies to my adult children so they may have an insight into the life of their parents and grandparents.
While 'The Fifties Mystique' does highlight the incredible indignities that women took for granted in that decade and beyond, this does not mean that it is of interest only to ardent feminists. It is a very enjoyable read, well-researched and a reminder that all freedoms have to be won and protected.
Recommended for anyone who would like to learn, or be reminded about, everyday life and social behaviour in the post-war years - and to discover how far we have come.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much for the "good old days" 5 May 2012
Writer Jessica Mann -- previously best known for her literary journalism and crime novels -- takes a look back at what it was like to be a young woman in the 1950s. For those who look at the past through rose-tinted, Daily Mail style glasses this brilliant and compelling book will come as an eye opener. And for any men who really think that forcing your women to feign stupidity and helplessness is or was a good idea, even more so. If the past is another country, for women the 1950s was North Korea! Heartily recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oddly readable and entertaining 25 Jan 2013
By Scribe
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Oddly readable and entertaining? Yes I was not expecting this to be as absorbing or good fun to read. I think I was expecting a 'bang bang right on book for wummin', but Jessica Mann keeps popping out from behind the facts ( some of them actually very depressing when you look back) like some welcomed and amusing best friend sharing a secret, amply demonstrating a confidence and command of her thoughts and material. I originally bought this as a Christmas gift for my sister - and got sucked in from the opening paragraph. There is a lovely directness from the author which prevents all the detail about surveys and legislation drowning the narrative whilst still marshalling the facts - I like a book with 'voice' and I liked what I heard.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those were the days, oh boy........ 9 July 2012
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Jessica Mann's book is fascinating and everything she says so true. Born in the late Forties, I was lucky to be brought up on the other side of the pond in the late Fifties and Sixties. When I came to live in England in the Seventies, I found society here still suffocatingly repressive - I think the society reflected in the Fifties Mystique lasted a good bit longer than just that decade and the next. What Ms. Mann's book has helped me to understand is why my British relatives and in-laws, born in the twenties, were so full of old-fashioned incomprehensible prejudices and assumptions, they seemed to be stuck in a time-warp - I guess they couldn't help it, they just didn't know any better. I hope my daughter, born in the late nineties, continues to benefit from the enlightenment and hard-won freedom of choice the Baby-Boomers fought to get her, but no doubt about it, there's no guarantee, she could be experiencing an Emancipation Mystique and it might be her daughter next who wonders 'what happened?'.

Thank you, Ms. Mann.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reliving the fifties 22 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A fascinating read for one who grew up in the fifties, as I did, and who remembers everything clearly but without questioning at the time.
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