Originally published in 1984, this book touches the private lives and professional responsibilities of men and women, as it illustrates the comic as well as serious effects of the ‘incorporation’ of wives into some important State and commercial institutions. Beyond their domestic functions, wives have, in particular ways, been valuable props to many a husband’s career and many an employer’s and the nation’s interests. For example, the Army, civil administrations at home and overseas, and the police have, without questioning, depended on the services of wives – given silently, willingly or unwillingly. Yet the nature of the relationship of these ‘incorporated’ wives to the objectives of such institutions has, until recently, been largely unregistered in practice, unrecorded in social and historical accounts and unstudied by analysts.

This book provides a wealth of ethnographic material. Personal anecdotes and scholarly interpretations throw light on the conceptual systems underlying the workings and cultures of institutions, as well as the construction of identities. Many will find their experiences echoed here.

The issues raised are important not only for individual men and women, for whom such ‘incorporation’ may provide advantages as well as constraints, but because of the bearing they have on our understanding of marriage, especially since we cannot be sure this will continue in its present mode or as the dominant form of conjugal union. As more married women assume greater responsibilities at work, will their husbands give the same support to their wives and those who employ them as they themselves received? Further, it seems likely that wives may become less willing than in the past to render their services unacknowledged – indeed this trend is already apparent. We may ask, then, ‘who will fill the gaps?’, and ‘how will institutions change?’. The historical and contemporary studies here provide some base data and some theoretical approaches necessary for any who may wish to consider what will become increasingly acute practical questions.

chapter |26 pages


chapter |23 pages

Incorporation and Exclusion

Oxford Academics' Wives

chapter |17 pages

Ambivalence and Dedication

Academic Wives in Cambridge University 1870-1970

chapter |22 pages

Police Wives

A Reflection of Police Concepts of Order and Control

chapter |17 pages

Camp Followers

A Note on Wives of the Armed Services

chapter |14 pages

The Suitable Wife

Preparation for Marriage in London and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe

chapter |15 pages

Shell Wives in Limbo

chapter |8 pages

The Negation of Structure

A Note on British Council Wives

chapter |22 pages

Settler Wives in Southern Rhodesia

A Case Study

chapter |21 pages

Colonial Wives

Villains or Victims ?

chapter |25 pages

Memsahibs in Colonial Malaya

A Study of European Wives in A British Colony and Protectorate 1900-1940