Past Times: Wives should be paid a weekly wage!

From The Shetland Times, Friday 18th December, 1959

At a recent meeting of the Burravoe Literary and Debating Society the motion before the house was “That housewives should be paid a weekly wage by their husbands.”

Mr Hunter, a new member, led for the affirmative, giving a detailed account of the housewife’s day. His account showed that he paid attention to those chores connected with preparing food and washing up afterwards! His main argument was that the housewife had to supply her own needs and the family’s from the one sum; she could easily skimp the one or the other with disastrous results. How much better if she had her own pocket money like the husband which she could save for some big item such as clothes or squander on cosmetics if she wished. At least £2 a week was Mr Hunter’s idea of a wage for her but that would depend on her husband’s pay packet.

Miss Carol Williamson led for the negative by putting a question to the men: “Did your wife marry you because you offered the highest wage?” This question would worry the men if the affirmative was to become fact. Then she went on to point out all the resulting headaches for Whitehall and housewives. She foresaw all kinds of form-filling by harassed housewives and a resulting National Housewives’ Wage. But this would depend on the size of the house and family – and this would lead in turn to a National Union of Housewives with a Housewife’s Day, not to mention that popular activity of unions – strikes, and a housewives’ strike would truly dislocate the life of the nation.

Mr C. J. Robertson seconded Miss Williamson. To him marriage was a union so the idea of paying a wife for her work for home and husband made a mockery of marriage vows. There should be no “mine” and “yours,” it should all be “ours”.

Mr Billy Williamson not only supported Mr Hunter that the wife should have a wage, but went so far as to state that she should get the whole of the man’s wages.

At question time Mr T. Williamson queried this last speaker – were there no bad unscrupulous wives who would misuse this trust? But Billy replied that if there were any it was all the husband’s fault; he said the husband should always pause and ask himself “why question my wife’s judgment? Look who she married!”

Mr M. G. Johnston asked Miss Williamson if it would be any more difficult to state a national housewives’ wage and to see she got it than to enforce a man separated from his wife to pay maintenance, but Miss Williamson thought it certainly would, as separation allowances only affected part of the population while his idea would affect every housewife.

In the ensuing debate man was always shown in a bad light and the woman in a correspondingly good light – questioned only by Mr T. Williamson. It was not surprising that the result was a win for the affirmative by three votes.


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