USA - A Divided Union 1941-80
Women and Families in the 1950s
Why did many women feel frustrated with their lives in the 1950s?
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Keywords are explained down the page
Although the number of women at work did continue
to rise after the war, female workers and
career-women were viewed with suspicion by many.
The traditional idea that a woman’s role was a
homemaker raising her family was very influential in
Father Knows Best, 1954-8.
very influential book was ‘Modern Women: the Lost Sex’ by Maryinia
Farnham and Ferdinand Lundgren.
claimed that most of society’s problems – alcoholism, teenage
hooliganism and even war – were because of women following careers
instead of being housewives and mothers.
and cleaning appliances like washing machines, fridges and Hoovers were
advertised as being ‘every woman’s dream’.
The suburbs developed in the 1950s.
Middle-class families left the cities to
live in new houses in large suburban
estates. The husband would drive to
work in his car and the wife would
stay at home and bake apple pies.
only companionship women could look forward to was weekly ‘Tupperware
Parties’ where neighbours would gather to have coffee and buy plastic
women decided there was more to life than babies, dishes and happy
husbands. They felt that their contribution to the war effort had been
forgotten. In the 1960s thousands joined NOW
– the National Organisation for Women.
A book was published in 1963 which changed the world.
Betty Friedan, a Communist, wrote ‘The Feminist
Mystique’. It said that women had been brainwashed
by men into being their servants. She called upon women
to educate themselves and become partners with their
men rather than second-class citizens
Key Films to Watch
‘The Stepford Wives’(1975)
Chilling horror film about a town where all the women are typical 1950s wives - or are they?
A great film starring Reece Witherspoon
(Legally Blonde) and Tobey Maguire
(Spiderman) about the effects of the new
ideas on a suburban 1950s town.
Use a Quote! Examiners love them!
"a comfortable concentration camp" - Betty Friedan describing the suburban home in the eyes of a woman
homemaker - a traditional role for a housewife
suburbs, suburbia - modern housing estates on the outskirts of towns and cities e.g. Coulsdon.
Tupperware - a brand of plastic kitchen stuff like sandwich boxes which are sold through home parties, like Avon cosmetics or Ann Summers sexy undies!
Communist - someone who believes in equality for all people and a big change in the way we live.
Nice site showing how adverts carried the message
More from the same great site.
The path of Women's Rights 1848-1998
A celebration of American Women (US)
How TV encouraged the traditional roles (US)
American retro 1950s site.
Events, people and reactions. (US)
Official Web Site (US)