Despite the months of television programmes, magazine articles and book launches celebrating the Monarch’s 60 years on the throne it seems hard to imagine what life was like in the 1950s.
The social and economic changes which have occurred since The Queen acceded to the throne in 1952 have been nothing short of momentous, especially for women.
Back in the days when Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis and Elvis Presley were in the charts life for women was very different to today.
With marriage and birth rates booming, keeping house and raising a family were considered ideal female roles during the 1950s.
During World War II millions of women worked in factories but after the war the number of working women dropped. By 1950 it was climbing again, at the rate of a million a year.
By 1956, 35 percent of all adult women were members of the labour force but most married women didn’t work. A job for a single girl often involved caring perhaps in nursing or teaching.
A large number of young women without professional qualifications were employed in typing pools, an institution which simply doesn’t exist today. In the 1950s and 1960s every medium sized company and all government departments employed large numbers of women, never men, to type letters and documents.
The typists, usually presided over by a fierce matriarch, worked in silence for eight hours save for the tapping of the keys. Everything was typed in triplicate using blue carbon paper. It had to be right first time, every time.
Today, computer technology and digital transcription services have put an end to the typing pool. Even very large companies can operate with just a handful of secretarial and administration staff.
Managers can dictate their correspondence, notes and instructions into hand-held digital recorders and companies offering transcription services produce the documents in hours.
Until recent years all newspapers also employed copytakers, usually women, to receive phone calls from journalists in the field and type up in their stories onto copy paper.
The advent of laptop computers marked the end of an era as reporters were able to file their own copy from anywhere in the world. Many older journalists would probably not lament the abolition of the fierce female copytakers who barked instructions at terrified young hacks if the failed to spell out even the simplest word down a bad line from a public telephone box.
Times have certainly changed for women during The Queen’s reign. Legislation means no civilian jobs are barred to women and for teenagers leaving school nothing is impossible.
Fittingly, Her Majesty has reigned over an Elizabethan Age when we have women pilots, astronauts, managing directors, nuclear physicists and brain surgeons. Who knows what the next 60 years will bring?