Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-x5mqb Total loading time: 0.348 Render date: 2021-11-27T08:07:09.650Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

3 - Rubber Shortages on Britain's Home Front

from Part One - Consumption on the Home Front

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 August 2017

Sandra Trudgen Dawson
Affiliation:
Executive Administrator of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Executive Director of the Coordinating Council on Women in History.
Mark J. Crowley
Affiliation:
Wuhan University, China
Sandra Trudgen Dawson
Affiliation:
University of Maryland, College Park
Get access

Summary

WHEN the imperial Japanese army invaded and occupied Malaya in December 1941, Britain lost access to raw rubber. The ramifications of the invasion for the British war effort were undeniably great, but the impact of the rubber shortage on civilians was no less significant. The lack of rubber consumer products created problems for infants, mothers and midwives. By February 1942, rubber gloves for home births were rationed, the manufacture of rubber teats for infant feeding bottles was only 25 per cent of pre-war levels and the production of contraceptive rubber diaphragms and condoms for civilians had ceased. As the war progressed, the lack of rubber teats for feeding infants created mounting difficulties for mothers with young babies. While a public outcry forced the government to restart production in late 1944, the lack of rubber contraceptives led to unwanted pregnancies and a surge in venereal diseases. This public health crisis did not restart the production of diaphragms or condoms for civilians, but resulted instead in the establishment of treatment centres for sexually transmitted diseases. Appeals to the government for more gloves for midwives failed, leading many midwives to leave the profession. This produced a critical shortage of birth attendants at the very moment the birth rate in Britain increased dramatically.

The literature on wartime shortages, rationing and austerity in Britain is rich and detailed. Recently, Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska and Mark Roodhouse have explored wartime policies and the implementation of rationing, as well as the black market that developed alongside official channels. Earlier scholarship has focused on the shortages and state policies aimed at increasing food production and maintaining equitable access to food supplies. R.J. Hammond's ‘official history’ of the development of those policies, and recent comparative work by Lizzie Collingham, signal that all the major powers connected the control of food to the maintenance of civilian morale. Britons’ nutrition improved markedly during the Second World War. Many citizens reused, repurposed and recycled consumer items for personal use and, as Peter Thorsheim argues, for weapons. Nevertheless, some items could not be reused indefinitely. These included medical rubber gloves, condoms, diaphragms (or ‘Dutch Caps’) and rubber teats for infant feeding bottles.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×