Table 7.1: EVWs’ jobs, family status and childcare arrangements, late 1940s to 1960
In the rest of this chapter then, the variations in the ways in which women combined their paid work with domestic responsibilities are investigated, in an attempt to assess the relative significance of ‘local gender cultures’ or what I have termed situated understandings of appropriate gender roles. Did Latvian women find that local ideas affected their decisions about how to live in 1950s Britain? To what extent did they conform to one or other of Duncan and Edwards’s idealised categories? Did they exhibit one of the three gendered moral rationalities Duncan and Edwards defined or are perhaps these distinctions less relevant to the circumstances of married women, with husbands who might be able and willing to share caring responsibilities? Or perhaps, their common origins and the experiences of loss and migration shared by Latvian women united them in efforts to recreate an idealised Latvian family that had more in common with the domestic hegemony that at the time dominated British culture than with either local working class patterns and beliefs or with the new negotiations beginning to emerge among middle class couples from the 1950s onwards? Re-establishing a stable family life was an important part of countering the sense of loss and dislocation among the EVW population and, as bell hooks (1991) insists, it is important not to neglect the home as a source of strength and a site of resistance for minority women. For Latvians in Britain, their homes were perhaps important as a place of resistance to the forces of history and the relations of power that positioned EVWs as supplicants and as highly regulated alien workers in 1940s Britain. It was in the home, and as I shall show later in the organisation of cultural events, that Latvian EVWs were most easily able to re-establish a version of ‘normal’ life based on the traditions and customs that they had learnt as children and teenagers growing up in Latvia.