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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Laura Tisdall
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).
British working-class adolescent girls wrote about their imagined futures in thousands of essays throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Producing narratives that were intended for the eyes of teachers and researchers, these writers’ attempts to reflect accepted narratives about growing up offer us a window into how wider societal ideas about adulthood were reinvented in post-war Britain. For these teenage girls, markers of adulthood remained traditional: marriage and motherhood were framed as the only route to becoming an adult woman. However, the category of adulthood itself was now conceptualised as the culmination of a series of discontinuous psychological stages of development, meaning that girls who did not achieve these goals could now be pathologised as psychologically and even biologically immature. This was especially problematic for young lesbians, who recognised that their sexual orientation both prevented them from straightforwardly conforming to heteronormative ideas of marriage and motherhood, and was also identified as a ‘phase’ that was linked solely to adolescence. Nevertheless, these new ideas of adulthood shaped the choices of all adolescent girls, as they strove to prove that they were mature enough to no longer be defined as innately irresponsible teenagers.
Author(s): Tisdall LA
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Gender and History
Pages: epub ahead of print
Online publication date: 22/06/2021
Acceptance date: 20/05/2021
Date deposited: 21/05/2021
ISSN (print): 0953-5233
ISSN (electronic): 1468-0424
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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