"Destructive but sweet": cigarette smoking among women 1890-1990

Eliot, Rosemary Elizabeth (2001) "Destructive but sweet": cigarette smoking among women 1890-1990. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Despite the vast literature surrounding tobacco use, there is little work looking at the question of smoking among women in a historical context. The work which has been done on women and smoking has largely looked at the issue from a sociological viewpoint. In addressing this gap, I have drawn from both disciplines to explore the history of smoking among women from 1890 until the end of the 20th century and to historicise existing sociological literature on women and smoking. I have aimed to integrate women into the history of tobacco more generally and to explore women’s own interpretations of smoking in the past. In doing so, I have focused on the relationship between smoking among women and the socio-cultural position of smoking in Britain from the 19th century until the end of the 20th. I have also explored the relationship between smoking and the changing social position of women.

Drawing on archival material from a variety of sources and interviews with epidemiologists and health professionals, I have shown the changing, often ambiguous, public discourses surrounding smoking from the late 19th century until the end of the twentieth. I have also shown, through oral history interviews with women aged between 40 and 85, how these discourses have shaped individual women’s interpretations of smoking in their lives and the personal experiences of smoking which they recollect.

What I found is that the social meaning of smoking has undergone a series of redefinitions over this period. The advent of the cigarette in the 1880s and its subsequent popularity in the decades following was crucial to this. From having been a recreational pastime, suited to certain times and occasions, in the nineteenth century, smoking permeated every aspect of public and private life for most of the twentieth. The First World War was pivotal in this expansion, as smoking, particularly cigarette smoking, was defined as a necessity to men’s lives, both at the Front and at home. Its increasing prevalence in the interwar period and the priority accorded to tobacco supplies during and immediately after the Second World War served to reinforce the idea that smoking was integral to every day life.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Dupree, Prof. Marquerite and Hunt, Prof. kate
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-1091
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:33
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1091

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