British Pathé featured on Woman’s Hour today, as Jenni Murray’s guests chatted about the forgotten scheme called ‘Fathercraft’, in which welfare specialists taught fathers in the 1930s and 40s how to raise children, following high levels of male unemployment and an increase in jobs for women.
Here’s is a fascinating extract from the show. Make sure to watch the Fathercraft video too.
Jenni: How did the depression of the 1930s effect the role of the father?
Nick Maddocks: “It had a huge influence. Interestingly, alongside our oral history, we use a lot of archive films to illustrate the stories that appear in the program and I spent hours going through film archives looking for images that show fathers spending time with their children. Surprisingly, there aren’t that many from the earlier part of the century. Often in home movie type films Dads were behind the camera and so that’s the reason they didn’t appear. It’s not until the Great Depression that we start to see moving images of Dads with their children more. For Dads who lost their jobs in the recession, especially in the North East where unemployment rates reached as high as 70%, industries like mining and ship building, were suddenly forced to spend more time with their children as Mums went out to work.
Jenni: And so what’s this British Pathe clip about Fathercraft? What’s going on there?
I think we could spend a whole hour talking about Fathercraft, It’s fascinating! We came across a bit of Pathe newsreel from the 40s that shows Dads being taught how to bathe and put nappies on their children. Now we’d never heard of fathercraft before and we think it’s something that is long forgotten. At the beginning of the 20th century child care was aimed directly at the mother and there were welfare institutions and health institution visitors would come to the working class home to show mothers how to raise their children, but Dads was very much excluded from this. There was a perception amongst some midwives that men were obstructive and uncomfortable with looking after babies.
So a scheme called Fathercraft was set up to teach fathers not how to look after their children, but why they should and why it was important. Fathercraft began in the 1920s and as it progressed through the decades Dads were taught more how to do things hand on. It was seen by many as the middle classes interfering with working class lives, and in fact, Dads already knew how to do a lot of these things.”
Julie-Marie Strange: “Yes, I have strong feelings about father craft. A lot of fathers were doing this already, and they resented these busy body women coming into their homes and telling them how to raise their children.
Listen to this great episode yourself on the Woman’s Hour website here