Evidence record card

Date: 1930s
The Welsh ‘Mam’: Tidiness next to godliness

Despite – or perhaps because of – the hardships of her life, the ‘Welsh Mam’ took a pride in maintaining a ‘tidy’ household. She was scrupulously clean, scrubbing her husband’s coal-black back and her front-door step with vim and vigour; she scrimped, saved and did without herself; she was pious, devout and a chapel-goer; she was the moral custodian of the home, tolerating no intemperance, bad language or immorality. But this was no matriarchal society. The woman’s sphere of influence was confined to the home; the public sphere remained a male domain. The ‘Mam’, although enfranchised in 1918 (assuming she was over 30), had little say in public affairs in Wales; she was economically dependent on men and even lacked, in those days of very sketchy birth control information, control over her own body… Now she is a figure of the past. In a Wales where there is more work for low-paid, part-time, working-class women than for coal miners, she has slipped into history.