Pearl Jephcott Symposium: Youth, Community, Methodology and More: A Symposium Celebrating the Life and Work of Pearl Jephcott

9th July 2015 Bringing together researchers from a range of fields, this one-day symposium offered academics and postgraduate students the opportunity to learn more about recent research that revisits and builds upon the work of this social research pioneer. The day represented a unique chance to begin a dialogue around Pearl’s legacy and to hear how subsequent researchers have extended the rich vein of research she began in the 1940s. Pearl’s legacy cuts across disciplines and research paradigms: across social sciences and humanities, historical and contemporary data, primary and secondary sources, quantitative and qualitative approaches and, as such, we envisage here researhc will continue to gave a appeal to a wide audience. ABSTRACTS AND PRESENTERS Pearl Jephcott: Biographical Starting Points, John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor, (University of Leicester) In this paper we offer a biographical sketch of Pearl Jephcott. We provide a short overview of her family history and reflect upon key aspects of her early biography that we feel helped shape and inform her sociological practice. Drawing upon archives materials we consider her early, unpublished writings, as well as proving an overview of her life and key works. Personal Reflections on Pearl, Ann Oakley (Institute of Education) Starting with a reading from Father and Daughter Ann offered a number of reflections on Pearl’s career in particular Pearl’s relationship with Richard Titmuss and speculated as to why Pearl left the LSE. Pearl Jephcott and Feminist Collaborative Research Practice, Lynn Abrams (University of Glasgow) Between 1966 And 1969 Pearl Jephcott was the principal researcher on the project Homes in High Flats which aimed to investigate the experiences of families who had recently moved to high rise flats in the city of Glasgow. She had moved to Glasgow in 1963 to conduct the research for Time of One’s Own after a number of years as a social science researcher attached to the LSE. The focus of this paper is Jephcott’s research methods and particularly her creation of a collaborative research network with her at the centre comprised of her and her research assistant Hilary Robinson but also a large number of postgraduate and undergraduate students who were tasked with conducting discrete projects – on waiting times for lifts, on child care, on graffiti amongst others – all of which enabled Jephcott to broaden the scope of the high flats research into areas which she believed would provide insights into the less quantifiable elements of the high rise experience. Jephcott was determined to access not only people’s views on the material aspects of high rise living but the emotional too; she was alert to debates about so-called ‘high flats neurosis’, concerns about social isolation and the developmental needs of children. To this end she assigned students to engage with communities and to work with high rise tenants which, in addition to the questionnaire identified underlying feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety and social dislocation. We would content that this way of working was second nature to Jephcott as a feminist researcher who had been one of the pioneers of social science method that sought to actively engage with the subjects of the research. In our own project we are seeking to replicate Jephcott’s collaborative research methods – though not to the extent of living in a high rise flat. Abrams as PI has assigned undergraduate and students to research aspects of the high rise experience and they will work alongside the project team. Pearl Jephcott, Married Women Working and the Sociology of Women inpost-war Britain Helen McCarthy (Queen Mary University of London) In the mid-1950s, Pearl Jephcott moved to Bermondsey in south London to investigate the lives of working-class wives who were employed outside the home. Based in the LSE’s Department of Social Science and Administration, and nominally under the direction of Richard Titmuss, Jephcott spent the next five years interviewing, observing and living alongside Bermondsey’s working wives, exploring their motives for working and the consequences for their employers, families and homes. The project, which culminated in Jephcott’s major publication, Married Women Working (1962), stands out for the central interest that it took in women’s lives, as opposed to the lives of male workers or the broader dynamics of working-class families and networks of kin, which dominated the ‘classic’ sociological texts of the post-war period. But Jephcott’s study was not unique, belonging as it did to a wider and emerging genre of social research which took women seriously as a subject of sociological investigation. This included Ferdynand Zweig’s Women’s Life and Labour (1952), Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein’s Women’s Two Roles (1956), Judith Hubback’s Wives Who Went to College (1957), and Hannah Gavron’s The Captive Wife (1966), amongst other smaller studies. This paper thus seeks to explore one particular strand within Jephcott’s body of work: her research and thinking about women and gender. Taking Married Women Working as my point of departure, I will argue that Jephcott’s analysis was strongly influenced by her early experience of youth work; she saw the transition from school to work as a crucial stage in the formation of a young woman’s outlook on paid work, marriage and motherhood which determined her chance of living a full, culturally-rich life. Although adhering to the assumption that women would retain a primary responsibility for childcare and housework, Jephcott argued that they also needed to take their duties as workers and citizens seriously and cultivate interests beyond the narrow domestic sphere. In this respect Jephcott’s research in Bermondsey resonated with the concerns of other sociologists of women in this period, who played a major role in shaping public debate about the changing life-cycle of women brought about by earlier marriages, smaller families and greater opportunities for older women to re-enter the workplace after child-bearing. This contribution, it will be suggested, has been marginalised in established histories of sociology in post-war Britain and also in second-wave feminist accounts of the discipline’s gender-blindness. This makes it all the more important to remember Pearl Jephcott, amongst her many other distinctions, as a pioneering sociologist of women. (Re)Imagining Pearl Jephcott’s ‘Time of One’s Own’: Methodological challenges and theoretical insights from a comparative study of youth leisure and social change Susan Batchelor and Lisa Whittaker, University of Glasgow Alistair Fraser, University of Hong Kong (in absentia) Pearl Jephcott’s (1967) Time of One’s Own is a classic study of youth leisure which captured the social and leisure habits of 15-19 year-olds at a unique point in social – and sociological – history. The study is remarkable for its prescient analysis of ‘ordinary’ or ‘typical’ youth and its ambitious and innovative research design, which included: individual interviews; group discussions; ‘casual data’ from cafés, pubs, youth groups; diaries; photographs and artistic sketches. We have revisited Jephcott’s pioneering research as part of a wider, comparative study of youth leisure in Glasgow and Hong Kong. This paper focuses on our experience of returning to one of Jephcott’s original fieldsites – Dennistoun in Glasgow – in order to gain an insight into the nature of social change and its impact on young people. It includes consideration of the methodological challenges associated with undertaking such a restudy, alongside illustrated examples of the empirical and theoretical insights to be gained.     Revisiting ‘Homes in High Flats’: Its inception and Jephcott’s methodology in practice Barry Hazley and Valerie Wright (University of Glasgow) Perceived by many local authorities as a quick solution to the problem of a worsening housing shortage, in the decade between 1958 and 1968 multi-storey flats became a ubiquitous feature of the skylines of cities across Britain. Almost as soon as this boom in production was underway, however, the high rise flat became an object of public and sociological concern, provoking a flurry of studies into the ‘social implications’ of high rise living over the period. Securing funding from the Rowntree Trust in 1966, and taking Glasgow city’s peculiarly enthusiastic multi-storey campaign as its focus, Homes in High Flats participated in this sociological boom in a distinctive and multifaceted way. On the one hand, like other major studies into high rise during the period, the project employed the attitudinal survey as its chief research instrument, seeking to generate data on tenants’ views which could be measured and rationalised through quantification. On the other, however, in keeping with Jephcott’s earlier intellectual biography, the archived research materials for the project reveal a pronounced interest in issues of tenant wellbeing, particularly with regard to women and children, together with a tendency to explore experimental research approaches to investigate these themes. This paper examines how Jephcott’s distinctive intellectual identity impinged upon one particular line of enquiry within the project. While Jephcott was handed a fairly complete mandate of which issues were to be studied and which methods she was to apply, provision for children on high rise estates represents one example of a theme via which she subverted her brief and made the project her own. The establishment of a play group for young mothers in a multi-storey block in Royston provides a good case study of how Jephcott used her expertise and research methods to investigate the problem of the lack of play space for the under-fives. This paper will focus on both of these issues, the creation of the ‘Homes in High Flats’ research project and the way in which Jephcott influenced its agenda. The Early Years Tony Jeffs (Durham University) Almost half of Pearl Jephcott’s working life was devoted to club work and informal education. Between 1927 and 1946 as a club leader, organiser for the Birmingham Union of Girls’ Clubs; and as a Development worker, researcher, editor and trainer for the National Association of Girls’ Clubs (NAGC) she was one of clutch of influential and pioneering women who between them did much to shape modern youth work and informal education. It was during her time with NAGC that she first came to prominence as a researcher and author. Clubs for Girls (1943) based on her experiences as a club leader and NAGC development worker in County Durham came to play a key role in the subsequent development of feminist youth work. Jephcott’s interest in youth work never diminished. Not only does club work feature in much of her subsequent research but in later life she served on the panels that produced the Central Advisory Council for Education Report 15 to 18; and the Albemarle Committee that laid the foundations of the modern youth service. She also made study visits to British Guiana, the West Indies and Hong Kong that resulted in policy reports on the provision of youth work and other services for young people in those localities. This presentation will discuss her work with NAGC and lasting contribution to the development of youth work and informal education. Jephcott, Bermondsey and the Anthropologists in 1958 Jon Lawrence (University of Cambridge) In 1958 Raymond Firth and Maurice Freedman from the anthropology department at the LSE raised money to conduct a study of working-class kinship to explore issues raised by Michael Young and Peter Willmott’s 1957 book Family and Kinship in East London. They were keen to test its claims about the extended family which appeared to be at odds with the findings of an earlier study which Firth had led at Snowfields, Bermondsey in 1947-48 (published in Two Studies of Kinship in London [1956]). The project had a number of components including a restudy of the Snowfields Buildings in the west of the borough, and a study of young mothers in Rotherhithe in the East. As part of this, a young anthropology graduate, Josephine Harmsworth, was employed to make a study of kinship patterns in Rotherhithe, and having struggled to get respondents to agree to talk to her on the basis of a random sample of addresses she turned to Pearl Jephcott for help. She offered to check some of the responses to Jephcott’s own general household interviews in return for contact addresses of people suited to her study (and willing to answer questions). The Firth papers at the LSE include Harmsworth’s short report on the accuracy of the respondents’ answers to Jephcott’s questionnaire (mentioned on p. 191 of Married Women Working) and her general comments on the questions that did and did not elicit meaningful answers. The Firth Papers also include lengthy reports by Harmsworth and others on the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe research which include interesting reflections on problems faced in the field. Harmsworth in particular focuses on the difficulty of trying to establish ‘rapport’ for qualitative work in the absence of a personal introduction (and also on the difficulty of relying on such introductions when conducting social research). Jephcott also reflects on the difficulties she faced conducting her Bermondsey research (notably in the Appendix to Married Women Working). Comparing the two sets of reflections allows us to explore inter-disciplinary differences of method and outlook in the late 1950s – just prior to the moment when Savage sees sociology as definitively defining its separate identity in Britain. From Nottingham to Notting Hill: Explorations of Delinquency John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor, (University of Leicester) In this paper we outline and examine Pearl Jephcott’s two community based studies of ‘delinquency’. These two studies, written ten years apart, deal directly with issues of social class, housing, community, families, race and crime. The first, unpublished study, is The Social Background of Delinquency (1954). The Rockefeller Foundation funded this exploration of juvenile delinquency in a Nottinghamshire mining town of ‘Radby’ between 1952 and 1954. Although $7,500 was awarded to Professor W.J.H. Sprott, Pearl Jephcott and Michael Carter undertook the research and wrote the subsequent report. As Sprott (1954) suggests ‘their report is entirely their own work’ (Sprott 1954: i). Jephcott and Carter (1954) aimed to avoid individualising or pathologising delinquency (as was prevalent at the time) but instead they sought to locate delinquency within the specific family standards emerging from within particular working class communities or streets. They argued behaviours that a local community defines as ‘delinquent’ are socially conditioned and arise out of processes of social interaction and imitation. Using a combination of interviews with local ‘officials’ individuals, residents, participant observation, direct engagement with community activities, as well as an analysis of children’s paintings and writings, Jephcott and Carter reveal how delinquency relates to differing behavioural standards. The second study is Jephcott’s  A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill (1964) which she described as consideration of ‘the causes of the general malaise of North Kensington’ (Jephcott 1964:18). Carried out between 1962 and 1963 the location for the research was the ‘Notting Dale’. This was area Jephcott described as being within a seven-minute walk of the Ladbroke Grove tube station and which has became synonymous with the race riots of 1958. Fully immersing herself into and area ‘she did not know well’, Jephcott began to focus specifically on the social problems associated with multiple occupancy housing and ‘the possibility of stimulating small-scale joint action among the residents on specific problems’ (Jephcott 1964:  19).  Via ethnographic observation, collating the written experiences of the residents, photographs and by amassing information on rents, home ownerships and lettings Jephcott richly captures social life and graphically documented the squalor, the problems of multi-occupancy, the lack of provision for children and adolescents, alongside the lived experiences of ‘the residents from overseas’ (Jephcott 1964: 80). In examining these two studies of delinquency we reveal some of the substantive concerns and methodological devices that that come to characterise Jephcott’s sociology. It is a sociology based on rigorous research design where the sociologist documents and explores in order to explain. It is a sociology where the researcher offers evidence-based recommendations rather than political tracts. Jephcott was fundamentally concerned for the individuals and communities with who she engaged and so offered a sociology that dealt with ‘people as people’ not as abstract ‘conceptions of social action or social systems’ (Goudsblom 1977: 6-

Researching The Ordinary: The Extraordinary Sociological Research of Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980)

Researching The Ordinary: The Extraordinary Sociological Research of Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980)

John Goodwin and Henrietta O’Connor

University of Leicester.

Paper presented that the International Sociologcial Association World Congress, Yokohama, Japan in the Ordinary Sociologists, RCHS, July 2014


The lives and works of many sociologists have now been well documented and explored yet even when these biographical accounts are combined with boarder authoritative accounts of the discipline this ‘standard history’ is by no means a fully complete nor an uncontentious one. There are numerous others who have made, or continue to make, an outstanding contribution to the understanding of social life but who have become lost within the minutia of academic historiographies. As such considerably more needs to be done to examine the history of our discipline and reassess the significant contributions made by ‘other’ researchers so that we may also reappraise what can be learnt from these ordinary sociologists. In this paper we argue that Pearl Jephcott (1900-1980) is one such researcher whose contribution to sociology, and the sociologies of youth and community in particular, is suitable for reassessment. Her books – Girls Growing Up (1942), Rising Twenty (1948) Some Young People (1954) Married Women Working (1962), A Troubled Area: Notes on Notting Hill (1964), Time of One’s Own (1967) and Homes in High Flats (1971) – were both formative for many themes within sociology of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, as well have having contemporary relevance despite being largely forgotten. Focusing on two books in particular – Time of One’s Own (1967) and Homes in High Flats (1971) and data collected over a ten-year period from various archives and Universities, we discuss (i) Jephcott’s sociological practice based on ‘reality congruent’ theory developed in order that she may cast a lens on the realities of working class life. She wrote richly detailed studies that offered an unsentimental reflection of ‘lived realities’, of the ordinary, of the mundane, of the quotidian; and (ii) Jephcott’s methodological innovation and pluralism in the use of text, image and non-standard data sources that mark her out as being sociologically ‘ahead of her time’. Jephcott was an ordinary researcher researching the ordinary but her legacy is anything but ordinary.

The presentation can be found here: Jephcott



Conference venue

Oridnary Sociologists  (Session organizer: Jennifer Platt, University of Sussex,
Most biographical work in the history of sociology is on exceptional sociologists. They are very interesting, but can we as sociologists really understand their careers without knowing more about their social contexts? And can we really understand the social production of sociology without knowing how the rank and file used to do it? This session invites papers – about individuals, departments, cohorts, or the discipline in a whole country – who have not been prominent or exceptional. Their ‘ordinariness’ could be defined on the basis of preliminary data (rising only as far as the median academic rank? publishing a number of books or articles around the average, and receiving an average number of citations to them? holding a post at a typical
institution?), or could be attributed more impressionistically. Descriptive issues to be addressed could be what were their opportunities (class background, historical period, educational institutions, sponsorship, region, voluntary or forced movement between countries)? What were their family circumstances? What was the academic hierarchy, and what ranks did they rise to at what career stages? What social status did academic sociologists have at the time? What, if anything, have they published? What associations did they belong to?