Catherine Hall discusses Birmingham-based consciousness raising group



Catherine Hall talks about the importance of a consciousness raising group for women in Birmingham in the early 1970s for sharing personal experiences about their daily lives, including feelings of isolation associated with motherhood.

If you face a problem or issue in your life, where do you turn to for help? How many different options are available to you?

Do you think sharing personal struggles with a group of people could give you ideas and confidence to make major changes in your life?



What were you discussing?

Ourselves. Ourselves and our lives. And the recognition that the things we felt were a social phenomena was incredibly liberating. It was such an important understanding. And so the things that it was difficult to start talking about, you know, the frustrations of motherhood, the sense of isolation, the boredom, the, being at the beck and call of somebody else, the loss of independence, you know, all these things, sharing it was just so fantastic actually. And being able to identify it as something called maternity and domesticity and being a housewife and, you know, and we were all, well I don’t know whether, I don’t know to what extent this would be true of all the women in that group, but, you know, it was an absolute classic question when you went to any kind of academic party or anything, you know, ‘What do you do?’ ‘Oh, I’m a housewife.’ You know, it’s, it wasn’t an identity to be proud of. It was being a non-person really in a world where people were teaching and writing books and, etc, etc, etc. And it was, of course it was much, in a much broader sense than that it was a non-identity. So I think the social recognition of that and everything that’s encompassed in saying the personal is political, thinking that it was perfectly reasonable to say, you do the washing up, or why don’t you cook tonight or, you know, you should pick up your clothes when they need washing, or you should put the washing machine on even. We were all middle class, we’d all been brought up to think that, you know, our job was to look after our husbands and children in whatever, many varied versions of that but nevertheless a powerful imperative about what it meant to be a woman.

Catherine Hall discusses Birmingham-based consciousness raising group
16 April 2012
Sound recording
Sisterhood and After: The Women's Liberation Oral History Project
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Sisterhood and After Research Team

Many women in the early days of the Women’s Liberation Movement felt bewildered about what it meant to be a woman, what they were doing with their lives and why. Discover how consciousness-raising groups helped participants to discuss their feelings, needs and desires.

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