A House Of Their Own

Kassia St. Clair reviews the dollhouses on display at the V&A Museum of Childhood in East London:

For most of the period covered here—the 18th to 20th centuries—the dolls’ houses would be the closest to property ownership women would get.

They were passed from mother to daughter, moving with them from the full-sized homes of their fathers into those of their husbands. The Tate Baby House [virtual tour here], modelled after a late-18th-century country home, spent 170 years descending the female line of a single family, traipsing from Covent Garden to a Cambridge mansion to a country manor house and finally back to London.

Female empowerment comes late in the exhibition. The jewel-coloured Jenny’s Home modular system, created in the 1960s in conjunction with Homes & Gardens magazine, is set up here as a high-rise apartment block. But it could just as easily be slotted together as a sprawling villa or a two-up, two-down town house. As women’s rights progressed it was accepted that they could be architects, designing buildings and their interiors. And as the decades march on, more women can expect to be homeowners, too.