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Home is where mother is: ideals and realities in Australian family houses of the 1950s


Pascoe Leahy, C, Home is where mother is: ideals and realities in Australian family houses of the 1950s, Journal of Australian Studies, 41, (2) pp. 184-206. ISSN 1444-3058 (2017) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

© 2017 International Australian Studies Association

DOI: doi:10.1080/14443058.2017.1305980


Following the austerity of war, Australians in the 1950s were keen to pursue their inter-related ambitions of building families and homes. Architectural design was heavily influenced by modernism and focused particularly on the perceived needs of mothers and children, imagined to be ever-present in the home. Architects recommended modernising and centralising the kitchen so that the mother could efficiently complete chores while supervising her children. They advised designing children’s bedrooms to provide privacy and stimulate creativity, as well as incorporating indoor and outdoor play areas. While these ideals were promoted in housing magazines, analysis of other sources reveals that the reality of 1950s housing was more complex. Many Australians lived in dwellings representing the design conventions of previous eras. For those building new houses in the 1950s, postwar shortages and personal finances often constrained aspirations. Others disliked the fact that modernism challenged traditional spatial and social precepts. Even for that minority residing in newly constructed, architecturally designed housing, families did not always inhabit domestic spaces in the manner anticipated by architects. Attention to a range of historical sources allows a fuller understanding of the broad spectrum of postwar housing and the diverse ways in which 1950s Australian families dwelt in their homes.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:history, housing, Australia, mother, family, child, architecture, Australian history, 1950s
Research Division:History, Heritage and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical studies
Research Field:Australian history
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Understanding past societies
Objective Field:Understanding Australia's past
UTAS Author:Pascoe Leahy, C (Dr Carla Pascoe Leahy)
ID Code:148738
Year Published:2017
Web of Science® Times Cited:2
Deposited By:History and Classics
Deposited On:2022-02-04
Last Modified:2022-03-03

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