#25 The good old days

When people refer to the ‘good old days’, they are often referring to a time in the past when they think that life was better than it is now. But this wasn’t the experience for everyone.

As you read Anne’s story below, consider these questions.

What coping strategies did Anne have?

How do you think these strategies were medicalised?

During her 50’s Anne is admitted to hospital, this is also the time of perimenopause & menopause, could Anne have been mis diagnosed?

What might life be like for Anne in her 90’s?


Anne, a fictional woman, was born in 1933.

Her husband John was also born & raised at a similar time, he has controlled her financially & psychologically throughout their marriage. He used physical violence towards Anne, and routinely disciplined their children physically.

Let’s look at each decade through Anne’s life course and how aspects of that era may have impacted on Anne’s perception of herself and ability to seek help.

I write this from my white, female, heterosexual perspective. I am no historian but have provided some basic historical information to provide context.

There will be no graphic description of abuse, but I invite you to step into Anne’s world, the historical factors, her age, what might be happening to her as she develops and consider how she might think and feel.


Anne is born at a time of extreme poverty often referred to as the ‘Great Depression’. For the majority of this decade, living conditions were poor. Those fortunate to be in employment had few rights, with wages plummeting and suicide rates increasing. Many people were evicted from their homes and forced into homelessness.

The NHS didn’t exist, but asylums housed those with ‘mental illnesses’ and people were categorised as curable and incurable.

Suicide was a crime. Hence the term ‘to commit suicide’ which gives me an allergic reaction.

The second world war was looming and many men were being called up for military service, but many weren’t well enough due to poor housing, malnourishment or ill health.

Abortion was illegal, so many families grew, but many of those children born died in their early years.

These were Anne’s formative years.


The beginning of this decade saw many women taking on traditional male roles whilst men are away at war.

Rationing was introduced with many living in chronic fear of bombing, injury or death. Children were evacuated and families were separated. Anne was evacuated to the countryside, away from her family for 2 years, she returned age 11. Pubescent & confused by being away from her loved ones at such a critical time.

In the mid 1940’s, the war ends and many women are widowed, those whose husband who did return may find them to be traumatised by their experience and struggle returning to ‘normality’ difficult.

Family violence is commonplace and accepted.

Families grow, with many babies born, a generation now referred to as the ‘baby boomers’.

Anne’s father returns from war and by the end of this decade Anne has 2 siblings.


Life during this decade appears to gradually improve, with living conditions, employment opportunities and wages growing.

The NHS is born.

The nuclear family is the norm with men out at work and women predominantly focussed on childcare and housework. Housework was labour intensive, and expectations of women to maintain a harmonious, tranquil home for her husband’s welfare was viewed as her primary priority.

For Anne, she enters this decade in her teens, she begins secretarial training but there is an overriding expectation for her to marry a man as soon as she becomes an adult. Her parents have 2 other children and there is limited space in the small terrace family home.


Anne is now in her 20’s, she is married to John and they have 2 children. Whilst the 60’s saw women begin to campaign for equal employment rights, it was a long time before any changes were implemented.

Anne remains at home, whilst John works. She is dependant on John financially and has no access to her own income.

John frequently reminds Anne of ‘her place & status’. He regularly hits her, cautious to cause bruising where it can’t be seen, this is commonplace amongst their peers, but rarely spoken of.

Sex is soley about John’s needs.


This is the decade the first women’s refuge is opened in England. Women’s employment rights have improved, but women still struggle to access loans or mortgages independent of men.

As the children enter their mid teens, Anne gets a job in the local hospital and begins to enjoy her first taste of financial freedom.

John has exerted full power and control over Anne, he no longer needs to use physical violence, a look is enough to keep Anne in her place.

Anne struggles with her health and suffers with fatigue, occasional memory loss and is prescribed antidepressants. She struggles to work and John persuades her it is her job causing her health issues, she leaves after only 2 years.


Anne is now in her 50’s. Anne spent several months in hospital recently for her ‘troubles’. This was a difficult time and isn’t spoken about by the family. John is considered very caring and patient, by professionals.

Whilst Anne’s world has shrunk, John’s career has thrived. He has had numerous workplace affairs, which Anne is aware of. Anne feels she hasn’t been a good wife.

John often refers to her as a ‘burden’.

She feels grateful to have a lovely home and the security his income brings.

The children have finished education, have jobs and moved away. She is proud of her children who have professional careers.

Anne feels her children are her only success.


Whilst the world is changing rapidly around her, Anne feels her world get even smaller. John is often away with work and is now a managing director.

He has status & wealth.

Anne immerses herself in the garden, writing  poetry and sees their children and grandchildren when they have time to visit, which tends to be when John is away. Their grown up children avoiding contact with their father wherever possible.  

Seeing the world change at pace fascinates Anne and she often dreams about what her life could’ve been had she been born in a different decade.

This is the decade marital rape finally becomes a crime.


Now in her late 60’s, Anne is drawing a very modest married woman’s state pension due to a lack of employment. She continues to rely on John’s income but is ‘allowed’ to use her own money as she wishes.

John has retired and although he has numerous hobbies, it can feel very tense with him at home.

John is well respected amongst his peers, as he held a powerful position at work, he feels contempt for Anne and everything she represents.

Anne finds comfort in alcohol, her only friend, which allows her some escapism, some peace. She knows to keep quiet, obey John’s wants & routines, this has kept her safe for decades.

Safe, but utterly lost.



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