Life stress, support and class inequality: explaining the health of women and children
- A Oakley, As Rigby, D Hickey
- European Journal of Public Health
It is important to begin by thanking those who invited me to give this lecture, which will provide me with an opportunity to talk about all my favourite topics. You will be pleased to hear that I am able to trace some respectable historical antecedents in the field of public health. A paternal relation of mine was William Farr, statistician to Britain's first Registrar General. My father was Richard Titmuss, whose work in the late 1940s and early 1950s on class inequalities in health and illness jointly with Jerry Morris helped to shape the emerging discipline of social medicine.' Social medicine was closely related to the domain of public health, as is its successor, the sociology ofhealth and illness. But genetic credentials for talking about public health, or social medicine, or whatever one chooses to call it would be a bit thin, even in a culture which is increasingly moving towards a disturbingly new genetic determinism, as ours is. My credentials for being here this evening are more than genetic. I have worked for nearly 30 years as a sociologist centrally concerned with issues to do with health and the division of labour, especially the division oflabour between men and women. Like most people's careers, my own was not the product of carefully considered rational choice. A crucial biographical moment and I mention it only because it is germaine to the substance ofmy talk occurred in 1969 when in the act ofdustingmy husband's bookshelves (he was a sociologist, too, so he had a lot of books) I picked up one on the sociology of work and noticed that housework was almost entirely missing from it. It appeared only as an aspect of the feminine role enabling women to be satisfied with low status poorly paid jobs outside the home; this allowed men to have the high status highly paid ones. Had my husband taught the sociology of health which in those days was called medical sociology I would probably have been equally disturbed to note that women's unpaid health care in the home was missing from that as well.