By Emma Hughes
ITV’s ‘Mr Selfridge’ set in London in 1909, tells the tale of ‘mile a minute’ Harry who made it his mission to indulge and empower women by making their shopping experience more exciting. I have been one of the 6 million viewers gripped by the true story of such an iconic store founded and thrust into the limelight by flamboyant American entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge.
Selfridge opened his self-named store at a time when the women’s movement was really picking up speed. The end of 19th century had seen many great achievements for women in Britain, including the first female dentist in 1895, the first female architect in 1898 and in 1884 Oxford University opened its doors to women, allowing them to attend University lectures and take University exams for the first time.
So women were finally able to look to a future with exciting opportunities, to aspire to a career and a life in which they did not have to rely on their husbands.
But at what cost?
One of the issues of the time which has been highlighted by the ITV series is the marked difference in the treatment of Selfridge’s male and female staff. It has been pointed out on numerous occasions during the show that while the male staff were free to marry and continue with their careers at Selfridges, the female staff had to choose between their career and a life alone or marriage and a life dependent on their husbands. So whilst Selfridge was keen on empowering the women that shopped at his store, this empowerment clearly didn’t extend to the women working for him.
With International Women’s Day just around the corner, how much has changed in the last 100 years? Have we overcome all barriers and boundaries?
Please let us know your thoughts!
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