Queer 1950s pp 41-57 | Cite as

Love ‘Off the Rails’ or ‘Over the Teacups’? Lesbian Desire and Female Sexualities in the 1950s British Popular Press

  • Alison Oram
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


In 1954, an article headlined ‘Love Off The Rails’ appeared in the mass market Sunday newspaper, The People.1 Framed as giving advice to worried parents, it examined the implications of the recent New Zealand murder case, in which two teenage girls, Juliet Hulme and Pauline Parker, involved in what other press reports described as an ‘unhealthy relationship’ and a ‘wild infatuation… for each other’, were convicted of murdering Parker’s mother because they feared she might separate them.2 The author deployed a range of psychiatric theories of the family and parenting to instruct fearful readers on how to prevent their own daughters ‘develop[ing] unnatural love affairs with members of the same sex’.3 The sensational headline is of the type often linked to 1950s scare-mongering about out-of-control teenagers or the threat of homosexuality. Yet, the discussion moves on to a quieter, more privately-situated vision of same-sex love in asserting that many wives had ‘a homosexual background’, which meant that ‘their real love life is spent over the teacups with their girl friends’.4 This domestic image of housewives chatting at home suggested that lesbianism might also be found in the heart of the apparently normative family and contrasts strongly with the violent disorder evoked by ‘love off the rails’.


Married Woman Popular Press Male Homosexuality Girl Friend Family Newspaper 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Heike Bauer and Matt Cook 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Oram

There are no affiliations available

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