Jean was born in 1935 in a working-class area in Dundee. Her father died in combat in the Second World War and her mother was a weaver in the jute industry. When Jean left school at 15, she had an apprenticeship and worked in a foundry’s draughting office, where designs were made for metal objects to manufacture. She left work soon after she got married in the mid-1950s because her husband didn’t want her to work. They had one child. In the mid-1960s, she started to train as a primary school teacher.
Laura: You said your husband didn’t like you working, what do you think changed his mind when you wanted to be a teacher?
Jean: I think just society changed. When I started working, as long as my mother was still there to look after my daughter, we only have one daughter, and…the sun just shone off her, and he just didn’t want ‘anybody’ looking after his daughter…but once he saw that everything was okay, he was quite happy with that.
Laura: In what way do you think society changed?
Jean: Well, more women began to…more things were coming into…washing machines were coming in, people wanted more goods, as they call white goods, I was fortunate, even though I wasn’t working I had all the things that I needed, everybody wanted more so more women went out to work to get all the things that they couldn’t afford on one salary. There was plenty of work around, people were needed, they were needed in teaching. Married women then could work, because you used to have to leave when you were married, but you could carry on when you were married and…it was society that changed all sorts of things, it became freer I suppose, with the swingin’ sixties! [Jean laughs]
Laura: Is that how you saw your work, did you see that your wages were going towards buying these things?
Jean: No I didn’t go back to work because of that, because my husband had a good job and I had all the things that I needed. I had television, washing machine, fridge, ‘phone. I had all the things like that, I went back to work because I was bored. I was sick looking at the four walls. I think that maybe encouraged him to let me go out to work, because he was fed up hearing me say “I’ve nothing but these four walls to look at”, and all my friends had gone back to work so I didn’t have anybody to go out and spend the afternoon with. My daughter was at school, I really was bored at home.
Laura: You say that all your friends had gone back to work, were you lonely at home as well?
Jean: A type of loneliness I suppose, as I say just boredom. I did a lot of craftwork but it wasn’t satisfying, I felt I had to have something to do. I was a Guider, and I was Sunday School teacher, and Youth Club Leader and things like that, but I don’t know what it was…it was just during the day, when everybody else was out and you would just, I floated around in the garden, but I just felt there was nothing fulfilling enough, I just felt I had to get something to do…I just felt I needed something for “me”, you know to sort of extend myself I think more than anything really.