Why did many women feel frustrated with their lives in the 1950s?

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

1950s USA.

The average age at which women were married was 20 – the youngest for 60 years. Newspaper and magazine articles encouraged women to return to the home. Popular TV shows such as ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ carried this message into homes.

 

Father Knows Best, 1954-8.
A very influential book was ‘Modern Women: the Lost Sex’ by Maryinia Farnham and Ferdinand Lundgren.

It 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.

Kitchen and cleaning appliances like washing machines, fridges and Hoovers were advertised as being ‘every woman’s dream’.

The Suburbs
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.
The only companionship women could look forward to was weekly ‘Tupperware Parties’ where neighbours would gather to have coffee and buy plastic kitchen products.
The Reaction
Many 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

This book helped launched the later Women’s Movement .
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?

‘Pleasantville'(1998)

A great film starring Reece Witherspoon

(Legally Blonde)  and Tobey Maguire

(Spiderman) about the effects of the new

ideas on a suburban 1950s town.