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“More than a Contract”: The Emergence of a State-Supported Marriage Welfare Service and the Politics of Emotional Life in Post-1945 Britain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2016

Abstract

This article examines the seminal contributions of Britain's marriage counseling and therapy services toward cultivating a new emotional purpose for marriage in the decades following World War II. It presents two related narrative threads. First, it argues that psychologically oriented relationship services attracted government support because they supported the postwar ideal of a classless democratic society. Pioneering practitioners promoted a universalized view of citizens’ emotional relationships—rather than their socio-economic circumstances—as the determining fact of their lives. Second, it argues that these services provided a compelling language and set of concepts for articulating transforming understandings and expectations of marriage in the decades after 1945. To this end, the article reveals how the language and concepts of marriage therapists were mobilized by divorce reformers in the 1960s, and helped replace the offense model for divorce petitions with a less punitive psychological model of relationship “breakdown” in 1969. Britain's postwar marriage welfare services endowed stable harmonious families with crucial social and political importance as the bedrock for postwar social reconstruction and the most fitting environment for children and adults alike to develop into fully mature and self-realized democratic citizens.

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Articles
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Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies 2016 

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References

1 The National Archives (hereafter TNA), Eustace Chesser, “Written Evidence Presented to the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce, 1952,” LCO 2/6113.

2 Edward Fyfe Griffith, in International Congress on Mental Health, London 1948, vol. 4, Proceedings on the International Conference on Mental Hygiene, 16th–21st August, ed. John Carl Flugel (London, 1948), 172.

3 Ibid.

Ibid

4 Ibid., 173.

Ibid

5 Feversham Committee, The Voluntary Mental Health Services: The Report of the Feversham Committee (London, 1939), 53–54.

6 The term “depth psychology” refers to all forms of psychological therapy and research that posit the existence of an unconscious mind. Freud's contemporary, the Swiss psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler, coined the term in 1914 to bring coherence to the wide range of competing psychological understandings of unconscious life.

7 See National Marriage Guidance Council, Counsellor Basic Training Prospectus (London, 1985).

8 William Beveridge, Social Insurance and Allied Services (London, 1942), 8; T. H. Marshall, Citizenship and Social Class (Cambridge, 1950).

9 See Claire Langhamer, The English in Love: The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution (Oxford, 2013); Anthony Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love, and Eroticism in Modern Societies (Stanford, 1992).

10 Toms, Jonathan, “Political Dimensions of ‘the Psychosocial’: The 1948 International Congress on Mental Health and the Mental Hygiene Movement,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 5 (December 2012): 91106CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Hayward, Rhodri, “The Invention of the Psychosocial: An Introduction,” History of the Human Sciences 25, no. 5 (December 2012): 312CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Michael E. Staub, Madness is Civilization: When the Diagnosis was Social, 1948–1980 (Chicago, 2011); Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg, Impious Fidelity: Anna Freud, Psychoanalysis, Politics (Ithaca, 2011); Michal Shapira, The War Inside: Psychoanalysis, Total War, and the Making of the Democratic Self in Postwar Britain (Cambridge, 2013); Denise Riley, War in the Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother (London, 1983); Mathew Thomson, Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture, and Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford, 2006); Camille Robcis, The Law of Kinship: Anthropology, Psychoanalysis, and the Family in France (Ithaca, 2013). For consideration of the history of the Labour Party's preoccupation with the reform of mind and character, see Jeremy Nuttall, Psychological Socialism: The Labour Party and the Qualities of Mind and Character, 1931 to the Present (Manchester, 2006).

11 Langhamer, The English in Love; Hera Cook, The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex and Contraception, 1800–1975 (Oxford, 2004); Janet Finch, “The State and the Family,” in Families and the State: Changing Relationships, ed. Sarah Cunningham-Burley and Lynn Jamieson (Basingstoke, 2003); Jane Lewis, The End of Marriage? Individualism and Intimate Relations (Cheltenham, 2001); Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy, 184–204.

12 See, for example, Eva Illouz, Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help (Berkeley, 2008); Laura Kipnis, Against Love: A Polemic (New York, 2003); Wendy Langford, Revolutions of the Heart: Gender, Power, and the Delusions of Love (London, 2002); Berlant, Lauren and Warner, Michael, “Sex in Public,” Critical Inquiry 24, no. 2 (Winter 1998): 547–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 See, for example, Helena Wright, The Sex Factor in Marriage: A Book for Those Who Are or Are About to Be Married (London, 1932); Marie Carmichael Stopes, Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties (London, 1918); eadem, Marriage in My Time (London, 1935).

14 Marie Carmichael Stopes, Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties, 18th ed. (London, 1926), xvii.

15 Marie Carmichael Stopes, Married Love (London, 1919), 68–70.

16 Edward Fyfe Griffith, A Sex Guide to Happy Marriage (1935; repr., New York, 1952), 46.

17 Edward Fyfe Griffith, Sex and Citizenship (London, 1941), 202–3.

18 Geppert, Alexander C. T., “Divine Sex, Happy Marriage, Regenerated Nation: Marie Stopes’ Marital Manual Married Love and the Making of a Best-Seller, 1918–1955,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 8, no. 3 (January 1998): 389433, at 396Google ScholarPubMed.

19 Edward Fyfe Griffith, Modern Marriage, 19th ed. (London, 1946).

20 Barbara Evans, Freedom to Choose: The Life and Work of Dr. Helena Wright, Pioneer of Contraception (London, 1984), 154.

21 Edward Fyfe Griffith, The Pioneer Spirit (Upton Grey, 1981), 75–77.

22 The National Birth Control Council was formed by merging five independent birth-control societies in 1930. The Sub-Committee on Preparation for Marriage was initially launched by the British Social Hygiene Council in 1931 to produce a collaborative marriage preparation manual, written by a team of experts, including anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski, psychiatrist H. Crichton Miller, gynecologist Lilias Jeffries, and Canon T. Y. Pym.

23 Edward Fyfe Griffith, Modern Marriage and Birth Control (London, 1935); idem, Voluntary Parenthood (London, 1937).

24 Stopes, Married Love (1919), vii.

25 Wendy Kline describes similar developments in the United States in the 1930s, noting that Paul Popenoe incorporated marriage counseling as part of a new positive eugenic program focused on cultivating family stability. See Wendy Kline, Building a Better Race: Gender, Sexuality, and Eugenics from the Turn of the Century to the Baby Boom (Berkeley, 2001).

26 Memorandum on the work of the Marriage Guidance Council, E. F. Griffith papers, PP/EFG/A.10, Wellcome Library, London (hereafter WL).

27 Marriage Guidance Council, “To Those About to Marry,” 1938, E. F. Griffith papers, PP/EFG/A.12, WL.

28 Marriage Guidance Council, “1938 Annual Report,” 4, E. F. Griffith papers, PP/EFG/A.8, WL. The report further noted that lectures in the provinces—in Bristol, Godalming, and Sheffield—drew in even larger audiences of three hundred or more.

29 Ibid., 4.

Ibid

30 Marriage Guidance Council, “1943 Annual Report,” 4, E. F. Griffith papers, PP/EFG/A.12, WL.

31 In an effort to establish nationwide coherence, in June 1946 a meeting of Council representatives was held in London. In 1947, the expanding network of local Councils was formally centralized under the National Marriage Guidance Council, with a head office in Rugby. J. H. Wallis and H. S. Booker, Marriage Counselling: A Description and Analysis of the Remedial Work of the National Marriage Guidance Council (London, 1958), 6.

32 In 1940, 25,633 extramarital births were registered as compared to 55,173 illegitimate births in 1944. While 39,350 infants were born within the first seven months of marriage in 1940, four years later this number had fallen to 27,966. See Kathleen Kiernan, Hilary Land, and Jane Lewis, Lone Motherhood in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford, 1998), 27–28.

33 “Preserving the Marriage Tie: A Welfare Service Proposed,” Guardian, 6 February 1947, 5.

34 Alfred Thompson Denning, Final Report of the Committee on Procedure in Matrimonial Causes (London, 1947), 12.

35 Ibid., 13.

Ibid

36 Ibid. (emphasis added).

Ibid

37 See Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, Infants without Families: The Case for and Against Residential Nurseries (London, 1943); Susan Isaacs, ed., The Cambridge Evacuation Survey (London, 1941); Richard Padley and Margaret Cole, eds., Evacuation Survey: A Report to the Fabian Society (London, 1940); Wolf, Katherine, “Evacuation of Children in Wartime,” Psychoanalytic Study of the Child 1 (1945): 389404Google Scholar.

38 Denning, Final Report of the Committee, 5.

39 Sidney Harris, Report of the Departmental Committee on Grants for the Development of Marriage Guidance (London, 1948), 5.

40 Robert N. Rapoport, Community as Doctor: New Perspectives on a Therapeutic Community (London, 1960).

41 See TNA, Henry V. Dicks, The Psychological Foundations of the Wehrmacht (London, 1944), WO 241/1:1; E. F. M. Durbin and John Bowlby, “Personal Aggressiveness and War,” in War and Democracy: Essays on the Causes and Prevention of War, ed. John Bowlby et al. (London, 1938); Bowlby, John, “Psychology and Democracy,” Political Quarterly 17, no. 1 (January 1946): 6175CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42 A Marriage Guidance Training Board was also formed in 1949 following a recommendation made by the Harris Committee. An individual appointed by the Home Office chaired the committee. See Harris, Report of the Departmental Committee on Grants, 11.

43 Ibid., 10.

Ibid

44 Henry V. Dicks, “The Mental Hygiene of Married Life” (1950), Henry Dicks Papers, PP/HVD/D/1/2, WL. See also Dicks, Henry V., “Clinical Studies in Marriage and the Family: A Symposium on Methods,” British Journal of Medical Psychology 26, no. 3 (September 1953): 181–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

45 Henry V. Dicks, Marital Tensions: Clinical Studies towards a Psychological Theory of Interaction (New York, 1967), 45.

46 Christopher Clulow, “Enid Balint obituary,” uncatalogued, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships Archives, London (hereafter TCCR).

47 Ibid.

Ibid

48 Enid Balint, “The Nature of an Effective Marriage Counselling Service,” 25 January 1955, uncatalogued, TCCR.

49 Kathleen Bannister et al., Social Casework in Marital Problems: The Development of a Psychodynamic Approach (London, 1955), 83–93.

50 Dicks, Marital Tensions, 91–96.

51 Bannister et al., Social Casework in Marital Problems, 93, 89, 91, 78 (emphasis added).

52 Lily Pincus, ed., Marriage: Studies in Emotional Conflict and Growth (London, 1960), the quotations at 94, 137, 98.

53 Dicks, Marital Tensions, 68.

54 Joan King, The Probation Service (London, 1958), 122–27.

55 Wallis and Booker, Marriage Counselling, 138.

56 David Mace, Marriage Counselling: The First Full Account of the Remedial Work of the Marriage Guidance Councils (London, 1948), 78–79.

57 Family Planning Association, Family Planning in the Sixties: Report of the Family Planning Association Working Party (London, 1963), 24, Sir Allen Daley Papers, PP/AWD/H/7/8, WL.

58 Ibid., 7.

Ibid

59 Ibid., 24.

Ibid

60 Main, T. F., “Mutual Projection in a Marriage,” Comprehensive Psychiatry 7, no. 5 (October 1966): 432–49, at 445CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

61 Lily Pincus, ed., Marriage: Studies in Emotional Conflict and Growth, 2nd ed. (London, 1973), 17.

62 Ibid. For further discussion of marriage therapists’ treatment of marriage as a gateway to adult emotional maturity (and thus a crucial developmental experience) by the mid-1960s, see Chettiar, Teri, “Treating Marriage as ‘the Sick Entity’: Gender, Emotional Life, and the Psychology of Marriage Improvement in Postwar Britain,” History of Psychology 18, no. 3 (August 2015): 270–82, at 277–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

Ibid

63 For example, after the Second World War, David Mace gave numerous lectures on marriage on BBC radio and had written a popular weekly advice column in the Star newspaper for four and a half years. In that time, he received “3,850 letters from readers presenting specific counseling situations.” See Mace, David, “An English Advice Column,” Marriage and Family Living 12, no. 3 (August 1950): 100–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar; idem, Coming Home: A Series of Five Broadcast Talks (London, 1946).

64 A. P. Herbert, Holy Deadlock (Garden City, 1934).

65 “Divorce,” Guardian, 24 November 1950, 8.

66 Elaine Grand, “Miserable Married Women,” Observer, 7 May 1961, 34 (emphasis in original).

67 “What Makes Marriage Sacred,” Guardian, 2 May 1964, 3.

68 Gillian Tindall, “A Shoulder to Cry On,” Guardian, 1 August 1968, 7.

69 Ibid.

Ibid

70 Ann Shearer, “Analysing the Answers,” Guardian, 7 February 1968, 7.

71 Abse went on to write psycho-biographies of Margaret Thatcher and of Tony Blair following his retirement from politics. See Leo Abse, Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice (London, 1989); idem, Tony Blair: The Man behind the Smile (London, 1996). His 1973 memoir was similarly steeped in psychoanalytic explanations for choices that he had made throughout his political career. See Leo Abse, Private Member (London, 1973).

72 “Mr. Abse Bows to Divorce Storm: 7 Year Clause Goes,” Guardian, 4 May 1963, 2.

73 Abse, Private Member, 161–62 (emphasis added).

74 Ibid., 162.

Ibid

75 Ibid.

Ibid

76 “The Churches and Divorce,” Times, 3 April 1963.

77 The 1963 Matrimonial Causes and Reconciliation Bill became popularly known as the “kiss and make up” Bill. Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Lords, vol. 250, 22 May 1963, 389.

78 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Commons, vol. 620, 23 March 1960, 525.

79 Ibid.

Ibid

80 McGregor, O. R., “Towards Divorce Law Reform,” British Journal of Sociology 18 (1967): 9199CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

81 Archbishop of Canterbury's Group on the Divorce Law, Putting Asunder: A Divorce Law for Contemporary Society (London, 1966), 142.

82 Ibid.

Ibid

83 Wilson, William, “Divorce Reform Bill,” Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Commons, vol. 758, 9 February 1968, 810Google Scholar.

84 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Commons, vol. 758, 9 February 1968, 812Google Scholar.

85 “First Divorce Law Change in 30 Years?,” Guardian, 5 April 1969, 3.

86 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, Lords, vol. 250, 22 May 1963, 397Google Scholar.

87 “Reply to Church Critics,” Guardian, 23 May 1963, 2.

88 “Bishops Split over Divorce Bill,” Guardian, 1 July 1969, 1.

89 “Protecting First Wives’ Pensions,” Guardian, 17 January 1969, 20.

90 “Bishops Split over Divorce Bill,” 1.

91 Abse, Private Member, 178–79.

92 Ibid., 180.

Ibid

93 Mary Stott, “Looking Back on 10 years of Liberal Divorce Laws,” Guardian, 26 September 1979, 10.

94 Geoffrey Gorer, Sex and Marriage in England Today: A Study of the Views and Experience of the Under-45s (London, 1971), 84–85.

95 Ibid., 2.

Ibid

96 Ibid., 149.

Ibid

97 See Pat Thane, “The ‘Scandal’ of Women's Pensions in Britain: How Did It Come About?,” http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-42.html.

98 “Woman's Guardian,” Guardian, 16 July 1973, 9.

99 Institute of Marital Studies, “Marriage Study” (1971), uncatalogued, TCCR.

100 This particular phrasing is first attributed to Ernest W. Burgess and Harvey V. Locke, The Family, from Institution to Companionship (New York, 1945).

101 Kiernan, Land, and Lewis, Lone Motherhood in Twentieth-Century Britain, 63.

102 See Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (London, 1975); idem, Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason (London, 1961).

103 Giddens, The Transformation of Intimacy, 58.

104 See Cook, The Long Sexual Revolution; Langhamer, The English in Love; Jeffrey Weeks, The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life (London, 2007).

105 “Marriage à la Mode,” Guardian, 20 August 1987, 8.

106 Rebecca Davis, More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss (Cambridge, MA, 2010).

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