BU’s Dr Kate Murphy has published a paper on the BBC’s marriage bar and attitude towards married women (1923-39) in an important history journal.
Marriage bars restricted married women from employment. These were widespread in the inter-war years and seen in occupations such as teaching and the civil service, as well as in large companies such as Sainsbury’s and ICI.
In October 1932 the British Broadcasting Corporation introduced a marriage bar, stemming what had been previously been an enlightened attitude towards married women employees.
This article considers why, for its first ten years, the BBC bucked convention and openly employed married women and why, in 1932, it took the decision to introduce a marriage bar, albeit not a full bar, which was not abolished until 1944.
Dr Murphy contends that the BBC marriage bar represented a quest for conformity rather than active hostility towards the employment of married women and demonstrates how easily arguments against the acceptability of married women’s work could be transgressed, if seen as beneficial to the employer.
Overall, the article contemplates how far the BBC’s marriage bar reflected inter-war ideology towards the employment of married women.
The paper, A Marriage Bar of Convenience? The BBC and Married Women’s Work 1923–39, was published in the journal Twentieth Century British History last week.
About Dr Kate Murphy
After her long career working in the BBC, Dr Murphy joined the Centre for Media History at BU. She is programme leader for BA (Hons) Radio and is currently leading the team to launch a BA (Hons) History in the Media School.