Women and Money Management: Problematising Working-class Subjectivities in French Television Programmes During and after the Post-war Boom


  • Laetitia Overney ENSA Paris Belleville Umr AUSser




Social Housing, Working Class, Women, Television Archives, Moral Economy, Consumption, Home Account Book, Welfare State


This article looks at French television during and after the post-war period to explore the relationships that programmes systematically established between home-making in social housing, housekeeping money management and women. It sheds light on the gendered dimensions of thrift and dwelling. French 1960’s Television reflected a range of urban transformations characteristic of the period: the development of high-rise estates, social housing, shopping centers. How should people inhabit these new environnements, new structures of dwelling and new services in order to keep up with regular household expenses such as paying rent, utility bills, buying food or covering child rearing costs? Since the 19th century, women had generally managed household budgets as part of the everyday domestic cultures. These heavy financial responsibilities were relayed by televised documentaries prompting questions about the types of in/appropriate activities and attitudes, knowledges and expertises shown on mainstream TV at the time. Television was constantly problematizing working-class subjectivities through women’s voice. On the one hand, television reports showed women always counting the money and thrifting in order to control the household comsumption and to avoid debts. In the documentaries I analyse, the women describe in detail their economic problems and moral economies they are conditioned to operate within. On the other hand, TV programmes were replete with the specialist home economics tips that were meant to spread normative representations of dwelling in order to educate housewives. Women’s activities are tied to the welfare state which is revealed in all its complexity, controlling with one hand the rationalisation of domestic budgets and practices, and, with the other, improving living conditions and protecting individuals against vulnerabilities.


“JT 20h: Une famille budget 800 frcs Biarritz”, August 25 1970.

Antenne 2, “Antenne 2 Midi: Architecture HLM à Givors”, July 2 1981.

Baudelot, Christian & Anne Lebeaupin (1979): “Les salaires de 1950 à 1975,” Économie et statistiques, 113: 1, 15–22. https://doi.org/10.3406/estat.1979.4224

Bock, Gisela & Pat Thane (eds) (1994): Maternity and Gender Policies. Women and the Rise of the European Welfare State 1880s–1950s, London & New York, Routledge.

Caigny de, Sofie (2005): “Catholicism and The Domestic Sphere: Working-Class Women in Inter-war Flanders,” Home Cultures, 2: 1, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.2752/174063105778053409

Canteux, Camille (2014): Filmer les grands ensembles, Paris: Créaphis.

Cazeneuve, Jean (1980): Sociologie de la radio-télévision, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Clarke Jackie (2005): “L’organisation ménagère comme pédagogie. Paulette Bernège et la formation d’une nouvelle classe moyenne das les années 1930 et 1940,” Travail, genre et sociétés, 13, 139–157. https://doi.org/10.3917/tgs.013.0139

Dagenais, Huguette (1980): “Les femmes dans la ville et dans la sociologie urbaine: les multiples facettes d’une même oppression,” Anthropologie et sociétés, 4:1, 21–36. https://doi.org/10.7202/000946ar

Deuxième chaîne, “Affaire vous concernant: couple pauvre”,October 26 1981.

Deuxième chaîne, “C’est la vie: loyer et charges Argenteuil”, January 10 1980.

Deuxième chaîne, “C’est la vie”, January 1 1980.

Deuxième Chaîne, “JT 20h: Les moins de 1000 frcs”, October 25 1972.

Esping-Andersen, Gosta, (1990): The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Fassin, Didier (2009): “Les économies morales revisitées’,” Annales. Histoire, Sciences sociales, 64: 6, 1237–1266. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0395264900027499

Frederick, Christine (1919): Household engineering. Scientific Management in the home, Chicago: American school of home economics.

Gordon, Linda (1994): Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare, London: Free Press.

Grazia de, Victoria & Elen Furlough (eds) (1996): The Sex of Things: Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hoggart, Richard (1957): The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working Class Life, London: Chatto and Windus.

INSEE (1969): Résultats préliminaires du recensement de 1968: démographie générale, population active, ménages, logements, Paris: Insee.

Joseph, Isaac & Philippe Fritsch (1977): Disciplines à domicile: l’édification des familles, Fontenay-sous-Bois: Recherches.

Lazarsfeld Paul F. & Franck N. Stanton (1949): Communications research 1948–1949, New York: Harper & Brothers.

Lévy Marie-Françoise (1995): “Famille et télévision 1950–1986,” Réseaux, 72–73, 177-193. https://doi.org/10.3406/reso.1995.2719

Lewis, Jane (1992): “Gender and the Development of Welfare Regimes,” Journal of European Social Policy, vol. 2 (3), 159–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/095892879200200301

Miller, Micheal James (2003): The Representation of Place: Urban planning and protest in France and Great Britain, 1950–1980, Farnham: Ashgate.

Overney, Laetitia (2019): “Les archives féministes du logement social: une mémoire discrète et émiétée,” Bard, Christine, (ed.) Les féministes et leurs archives (1968–2018), Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, upcoming book.

Pahl Jan & Vogler Carolyn (1994): “Money, power and inequality within marriage,” The Sociological Review, 42: 2, 2363-288. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.1994.tb00090.x

Potucheck, Jean-L., (1997): Who Supports The Family? Gender and Breadwinning in Dual-Earner Marriages, Redwood City: Standford University Press.

Première Chaîne, “ Vivre au présent: Le budget familial”, October 25 1971.

Première chaîne, “Cinq colonnes à la une: Ils ont trouvé un appartement”, February 5 1965.

Première Chaîne, “L’avenir est à vous: Conseillère ménagère”, March 16 1964.

Première chaîne, “Les femmes...aussi: Le prix du deuxième,” February 11 1970.

Première chaîne, “Les femmes...aussi: Micheline, 6 enfants, rue des Jonquilles”, April 24 1967.

Première Chaîne, “Vivre au présent: Le budget familial”, October 25 1971.

Rudolph, C. Nicole (2014): At home in Postwar: Modern Mass Housing and the Right to Comfort, New-York: Berghahn Books. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt9qd2c5

Scatton-Tessier, Michelle (2005): “Rencontre avec Eliane Victor, la Grande Dame de la télévision française,” The French Review, 78 : n°5, 976–987.

Segalen, Martine (1994): “The Salon des Arts Ménagers, 1923–1983: A French Effort to Instil the Virtues of home and Norms of Good Taste,” Journal of Design History, VII, 267–75. https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/7.4.267

TF1, “ A la bonne heure: qui habite les HLM ?”, May 22 1978.

TF1, “A la bonne heure: qui habite les HLM ?”, May 22 1978.

TF1, “A la bonne heure”, TF1, November 15 1976.

TF1,“A la bonne heure”, November 15 1976.

Thompson, Edward Palmer (1971): “The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century,” Past and Present, 50, 76–136. https://doi.org/10.1093/past/50.1.76

Troisième Chaîne, “Vie pratique: Savoir tenir son budget”, April 1 1974.

Verret, Michel (1979): L’espace ouvrier, Paris: Armand Colin.

Victor, Eliane (1973): Les femmes...aussi, Paris: Mercure de France.

Van der Klein, Marian, Plant, Rebecca, Sanders, Nichole, & Lori Weintrob (eds) (2012): Maternalism Reconsidered: Motherhood, Welfare and Social Policy in the Twentieth Century, New-York: Berghahn Books.