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Together and Apart: Domestic Hygiene and Modern Marriage, 1890-1945

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2010
JournalJournal of Design History
Journal number3
Volume23
Number of pages29
Pages275-304
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article examines the advent of twin beds as a common sleeping arrangement for English couples. Through an analysis of a range of sources from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries—marketing materials, advertisements, domestic, decorative and marital advice books and novels and films—it argues that while twin beds were initially recommended by proponents of the domestic sanitation movement as part of a raft of hygiene measures, by the 1920s they had become a fashionable item of bedroom furniture for modern couples in ‘companionate’ marriages. It was in this context that Marie Stopes, in her popular marital advice books, railed against them as an ‘invention of the devil’, symptomatic of the evils of modernity, and endangering the happiness of the modern married couple. The article concludes that, despite these changing contexts of consumption, the significance of the history of twin beds needs to be understood through the intersecting discourses of domesticity, health and sexuality.