Courting

[Episode 7 | 1948 : Jen]

Jen and her friends are fantasising about the attractiveness of movie stars and royalty and rating them between one and ten. The girls only rate Wal as a three or four, which makes Jen feel that her friends would not approve if she told them about her mother's affection for him. She realises the inevitable when she sees her mother's engagement ring.


History

The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [4]

Activity 1: Marriage etiquette
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Subtheme(s): Customs and traditions; Relationships
Discover
  • In the 1940s, courting followed a set of unwritten rules for both young men and women. There was an acceptable time during which the couple held hands, kissed and then got engaged. Following these societal conventions kept your reputation intact.
  • Ask the class to research the topic 'courting etiquette' or dating advice. They should find out what conventions were followed in the 1940s and evaluate if these expectations have changed today and how.  For example, the boy/man opens the door for the girl/lady, the boy/man is expected to pay for dinner while on a ‘date’, the girl/women is expected to be demure, quiet and attentive.
  • They could also find out more about the radio drama When a girl marries that was popular in the 1940s. Some sources to help with researching the topic are:
  1. Screen Australia Digital Learning, 'Programs with Staying Power', http://dl.screenaustralia.gov.au/module/290/
  2. National Film and Sound Archive, 'Australian Radio Series 1930s to 1970s', http://www.nfsa.gov.au/docs/collectionguide_australianradioseries1930-1970.pdf
  3. Australian Old Time Radio, http://www.australianotr.com.au/Valebud.asp

Reflect
  • Students could find images of famous people getting married in the 1940s: for example, royalty, movie stars and sportspeople. These can be used to document 1940s wedding fashions and produce a wedding album.

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Activity 2: The baby boom
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Historical events
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  • The Second World War spurred considerable change to family life in Australia. Many men were killed in the war, leaving families without a father, women without a husband and many young girls without the prospect of marriage. However, when those men who did return got married, Australia's birth rates soared. More than four million Australians were born between 1946 and 1961. This generation was termed the 'Baby Boomers'.

Reflect
  • Divide students into groups to research Australian birth rates and marriage rates from 1800 to 2000. Allocate a specific era to each group. Ask them to speculate why these rates peak and fall at various times in history and to list their reasons.
  • As a class, create a mind map with students' comments and reasoning on the topic. Guide each group to find statistics for their era to share with the class using the library and online resources. Have students fill in the information on Student Activity Sheet H7.7.
  • After each group has shared their information with the class, they could collate all the information and create a graph or chart to show the changes in Australian birth and marriage rates over the decades.

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Activity 3: Changes
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Subtheme(s): Gender roles and stereotypes; Relationships
Discover
  • Jen has experienced many changes in her family. She lost her war-hero father, is living with her extended family and is getting a new stepfather. Her mother also experiences considerable changes; she is now a young widow with a child to support, relies on her family for help, and has to share her house. Following the war, it was common for young war widows to remarry.

Reflect
  • As a class, discuss the changing roles of women in post-war Australia and the effects this had on society. Students could investigate women's roles in the 1940s compared with the roles of women today. They should look at women's responsibilities in the home, at work and in the community. Then the class can create a Venn diagram to visually represent this comparison.

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Activity 4: A marriage proposal
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Subtheme(s): Culture; Customs and traditions
Discover
  • Wal approaches Jen's grandfather to ask for permission to marry Jen's mother. We see Wal leaving the house and acknowledging the older man. Jen guesses what is happening.
  • As a class, discuss why it was important for Wal to approach Jen's grandfather for permission to marry. Ask students to consider if this custom is still common today and why or why not. Discuss where and when the custom may have developed.

Reflect
  • Ask students to select communities with different cultural backgrounds in Australia or in other countries and research their marriage customs. Each student or group should make a poster about their research and present it to the class.

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