University of Helsinki

Åbo Akademi

Akademy of Finland

The Finnish Labour Museum

The Finnish Museum of Agriculture


Project abstract (pdf) available in Finnish and in Swedish

Raport on the research results (pdf) is available here in English.

The project includes four sub-studies:

Lena Marander-Eklund: Housewives in 1950s

This part of the project deals with concepts of house-wives in the 1950s and analyses the construction of gender in folklore material. The 50s is often considered as the era of house-wives, a time when married women stayed at home and took care of the household. The image of the house-wife was also prevalent in Finland during this time, at least in middleclass surroundings. Women were begged to give their place to men in the labor market as a sacrifice. But statistics show that married women did not return to be a housewife, supported by their husbands as they returned from war, to the same extent as in other European countries. For middle-class men, on the other hand, a wife at home was a sign of prosperity. Despite lack of labor, women within the service sector could get dismissed when they got married. The housewife is to some extent a cultural construction because women often had part-time work or did tasks that were not considered real work. Work and the meaning of work in Finland are therefore central concepts.

The material for this study consists of archival recordings, especially questionnaires in folklore archives. Marander-Eklund is focusing on material from the Swedish-speaking parts of Finland although the housewife was a middleclass phenomenon in all of the urban Finland as late as the 1970s. The method used here is a re-analysis or secondary analysis of earlier collected recording. When searching for narratives of and by house-wives she was confronted with a complete silence. Mostly comments like "I was a house-wife" were to be found. An exception to this is the life stories collected by the Institute of Women's Studies at Åbo Akademi University (1995).

Questions central to the study are: How is the silence in the archival recordings to be understood? Is it connected to shame, was the experience of being a housewife too commonplace to be expressed or was nobody interested in their narration? What kind of recollections of the everyday life of the housewife can be re-analyzed? In what way is the difference between the image of the housewife in the folklore texts and the life-stories collected by the Institute of Women's Studies to be understood? What does the everyday life of the housewives convey of the 1950s in Finland compared to other parts of the Western world? The material is analyzed with the concepts of intersectionality, gender, class and labor.

Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto: Everyday Life of Working Class Women in the 1950s

Eerika Koskinen-Koivisto's post doctoral research focuses on everyday life of working class women in the 1950s. After war period is known for the middle class ideal of a mother staying at home, and classed social dynamics. Despite the ideals, many mothers of the baby boom generation had to find ways to combine family and work, household work and participate healing the wounds of wartime. How did working class women manage their duties: rearing children, looking after the household, and taking part in the working life? How do they remember their life in the 1950s, and what do they tell about their everyday life?

Life stories are often built around key events. Thus, everyday life routines and the time full of work are rarely described in detail in biographical data. Often, the descriptions of everyday life get nostalgic tone. Koskinen-Koivisto will analyze life historical material from Finnish Labor Archives and People's Archive, and compare that to artifacts and advertisements of Finnish Consumerism Movement of the Finnish Museum of Labour Werstas. Koskinen-Koivisto is interested in the representation of ideal of the woman of the time, a worker and a mother, and in the experiences and memories of those women who lived before and through the changes. Including material culture to analysis of life historical data, Koskinen-Koivisto opens new ways to explore nostalgic remembering and conventional life story material.

Arja Turunen: Inappropriate? Attitudes towards women's wearing of trousers in Finland 1945-1965

In her post doctoral research Arja Turunen studies the adoption of trousers into women's dress in Finland after the World War II. Trousers became fashionable wear for the "New Woman" in 1920s but it was not until 1970s they became a part of women's everyday dress. The adoption of trousers was a long process for trousers were seen to be exclusively a male garment and, therefore, inappropriate for women. Attitudes changed during the Second World War, as women worked in the factories and farms vacated by men and needed utilitarian clothes for work and daily tasks in the home front. After the war, traditional, feminine ideals were again in fashion both in dress as in women's role. In this research project Turunen studies the changes in practices and ideals of women's dress in the 'long 1950s' (between 1945 and 1965) which led to adoption of trousers in the end of 1960s.

The introduction of trousers into western women's dress in the 20th century has been well documented in fashion and dress histories, but these "histories" have focused on high fashion and fashion design whereas the ordinary people's dress and work clothes have been studied less. In her research project Turunen is interested in the practices of everyday dress and discusses dress as a way to perform identity, social status, gender and body in society. The adoption of trousers is analyzed also as an example of the changes in the material culture, for in 1945-1965, due to the growth of the ready-to-wear industry, clothes became consumer goods and advertisement and marketing gained a major role in defining dress codes and making clothes meaningful.

Ideas, practices and discourses of dress are socially constituted but put into effect by the individual. Rules, dress codes and discourses of dress are examples of social power in defining for example femininity, women's identity and social role, but, in the end, it is the wearer who maintains or subverts these symbolic boundaries. Research questions are: How 'women in trousers' are represented? How the attitudes for and against women's wearing of trousers were argued? What kind of views on women's social role and female identity do these arguments and representations reflect and construct?

The research material consist of material from both museums Sarka and Werstas, advices given by women's magazines, and written oral histories on the adoption of trousers collected by Turunen in co-operation with the Folklore Archives of Finnish Literature Society. The material illustrates both the social attitudes and discussion on women's wearing of trousers and the choices and explanations of individual women, as well as combines the different discourses on dress (e.g. dress codes, fashion and advertisement) with museum objects that are often inadequately documented. The textual (written) and visual material are analyzed as narratives and discourses by paying attention especially to the argumentative and narrative strategies that are used.

Simo Laakkonen: Intervention of war: the (re)development of nature conservation and environmental protection in 1950s in Finland

Nostalgia is a powerful factor also in environmental governance. In contemporary world, there is a constant temptation to assume that there has once been a pristine, virgin world of unspoiled nature. For educated people such assumptions disappeared long time ago. Yet, today one encounters a widespread nostalgia for a wilder, less managed world. In Finland, the 1950s is most often mentioned as the last era when the Finnish nature was in relatively unspoilt state before the urban-industrial progress led, on the one hand, to serious environmental crisis and, on the other hand, environmental awakening took place in the 1960s and/or 1970s. Simo Laakkonen will explore the 1950s from a historical point of view and compare changes at work and in the domestic sphere with those in the environment. His novel approach will integrate and complete the aforementioned sub-projects in terms of space, time and contents.

Laakkonen will take a critical view to the prevailing theory that states that environmental crisis and awakening took place in the late 1960s and/or 1970s. He acknowledges that major expansion took place in environmental concepts and practices in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but his study will show that environmental crisis including pollution of air, water and soil and related environmental awakening started on local, national and even international levels in Finland already in the 1950s. He argues that wars and related crisis seriously affected the construction of multilevel governance of nature conservation and environmental protection. In brief, he claims that the environmental crisis and awakening of the late 1960s and 1970s was based long-term processes and activities that took already prior and right after the World War Two. He claims that without the intervention of Second World War environmental awakening would have taken place much earlier and in a different form.

The proposed project will approach above mentioned environmental issues from the point of view of environmental justice signifying the distribution of both environmental risks and access to environmental resources in terms of social class and related policy-making. Research in environmental history has tended to focus on the upper level of the societies. Hence, very little is known of the participation of the common people or the civil society in the processes of recognizing and dealing with environmental degradation in their everyday lives. As a result, the planned project aims to examine the history of the perceptions and activities of the local people related to the degradation and protection of the environment. A unique national collection of Finnish environmental reminiscences, mostly written memories and oral histories, will be used to realize this part of the study. This eco-ethnological collection entitled "Faces of the environment" (f, collection advert in Finnish) was gathered in a fruitful cooperation between the Finnish Labour Archives and University of Helsinki. These valuable materials that are permanently archived at the Labour Archives have not been analyzed so far.

Laura Hirvi: Nostalgia(rt): Examining the work of Juhani Seppovaara in an ethnographic manner.

This project sets out to explore the various forms of nostalgias that feature an important role in the work of the Finnish artists Juhani Seppovaara. Having grown up in Finland in the 1950s, Seppovaara seems to use his own memories as a source of inspiration in his work as an artist that gets reflected amongst others in his book Muistojen markkinoilla – sinivalkoisen arjen klasikkot (Otava, 2004). But Seppovaara’s work is also driven by another kind of nostalgia, namely the one that is based on memories of East Germany’s “Happy Days”. His “Ostalgie” comes to the fore in his photographs but also in one of his books entitled Itä-Berliinin taivaan alla (Avain, 2006). What do these two kinds of nostalgias have in common, and how do they differ from each other? Further, what role do nostalgic sentiments play in the work of artists?

Eager to reach a deeper understanding of the complex relationship between artists and nostalgia, Laura Hirvi examines in this study the opus of Finnish artist Juhani Seppovaara. The research material will consist of Seppovaara’s works and also includes interviews that Hirvi seeks to conduct with the artist during spring and summer 2013. To evoke discussions related to the topic of nostalgia, Hirvi will use in the interviews art objects that have been created by the Seppovaara. In addition to interviews involving art objects, such as books or photographs, Hirvi will also do participant observation in settings that play a meaningful role in Seppovaara’s life. One of the main objectives of this research project is to reach a better understanding how Finnish artists contribute through their creative practices to the shaping of nostalgic feelings and in particular to a nostalgia for Finland in the extended 1950s. The research findings will be published in one scientific, international peer-reviewed article.

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