Home | Interesting Excerpts | Literary Paper | History Paper | Photo Gallery of 1950s Mothers | Leave It to Beaver | Works Cited List


Background
"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. 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’."
Learn History - USA A Divided Union - Women in the Fifties


“This is the height of the baby boom years and women are expected to stay home as housewives and mothers. These changing expectations are reflected on college campuses. In 1950, women make up only 30 percent of enrolled college students - - a drop from 47 percent in 1920.”
Decade by Decade:1950s - Women of the Century - DiscoverySchool.com


Working Women and Sexual Gratification
"Work that entices women out of their homes and provides them with prestige only at the price of feminine relinquishment, involves a response to masculine strivings. The more importance outside work assumes, the more are the masculine components of the woman's nature enhanced and encouraged. In her home and in her relationship to her children, it is imperative that these strivings be at a minimum and that her femininity be available both for her own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of her children and husband. She is, therefore, in the dangerous position of having to live one part of her life on the masculine level, another on the feminine. It is hardly astonishing that few can do so with success. One of these tendencies must of necessity achieve dominance over the other. The plain fact is that increasingly we are observing the masculinization of women and with it enormously dangerous consequences to the home, the children (if any) dependent on it, and to the ability of the woman, as well as her husband to obtain sexual gratification."
Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham from Modern Woman: The Lost Sex

"The psychosocial rule that takes form, then, is this: the more educated a woman is, the greater chance there is of sexual disorder, more or less severe. The greater the disordered sexuality in a given group of women, the fewer children they have" Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia Farnham from Modern Woman: The Lost Sex

Frustration and Depression for the Ex-Working, Educated Housewife
In a speech addressed to a group of college women graduates, Adlai Stevenson said:
"many women feel frustrated and far apart from the great issues and stirring debates for which their education has given them understanding and relish. Once they read Baudelaire. Now it is the Consumer's Guide. Once they wrote poetry. Now it's the laundry list. Once they discussed art and philosophy until late in the night. Now they are so tired they fall asleep as soon as the dishes are finished. There is, often, a sense of contraction of closing horizons and lost opportunities. They had hoped to play their part in the crisis of the age. But what they do is wash the diapers."
Adlai Stevenson's Commencement Address at Smith College, June 6, 1955

"It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slip cover materials, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night, she was afraid to ask of herself the silent question -- 'Is this all?'"
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique

"If there is such a thing as a 'suburban syndrome,' it might take this form: the wife, having worked before marriage or at least having been educated and socially conditioned toward the idea that work (preferably some kind of intellectual work in an office, among men) carries prestige, may get depressed being 'just a housewife." Even if she avoids that "her humiliation still seeks an outlet. This may take various forms: in destructive gossip about other women, in raising hell at the PTA, in becoming a dominating mother . . . In her disgruntlement, she can work as much damage to the lives of her husband and children (and her own life) as if she were a career woman, and indeed sometimes more."
December 1956 article in Life, "Changing Roles in Modern Marriage"
Quotes

Back to Top