'You Meet 'Em and That's It': Working Class Women's Refusal of Romance Between the Wars in Britain

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Feminist debates in the 1980s confirmed the continuing significance of romance as an important aspect of women's lives. Women, it seemed, would keep buying the myth of romantic love, and no-one more than working-class women who appeared particularly susceptible to its seductions. [...] This chapter contributes to this debate by raising questions about the universal application of such claims, and asks whether the trajectory of romantic love is always represented as a significant characteristic of all women's lives? Does the historical moment in which a woman lived, her class and her need to represent herself in different ways at different times, shape her response to, and her understanding of, herself in relation to romance? Are there times when a woman might resist, refuse or deny the pleasures of romance as not serving her best interests? And if so, can such a refusal always be understood as progressive and radical?

To explore these questions I have drawn upon a series of recorded interviews I conducted in 1987 and 1988 in which working-class women who grew up in Britain before the Second World War talked to me about their childhoods, their courtships, their marriages and their children.(279-280)

The section on "Discourses of Romance Between the Wars" discusses romantic fiction.