The revival of a Movement and the development of Egalitarian Feminism 50 2. 3. The Egalitarian Feminist Revolution 59 2. 4. The rise of Radicalism: ‘Women’s Lib” 62 2. 5. The Radical Feminist Revolution 76 2. 6. Radicalism: The instruments and ideologies of action 80 Conclusion: how the experience of American women in the sass’s and sass’s contributed to modern women’s emancipation 85 References 91 Appendices 94 “Have dinner ready, prepare yourself, prepare the children, minimize all noise, be happy to see him, listen to him, make the evening his”, here is what young women learned at school in the 1 ass’s in America.
Thanks to “Home Economics High School Text Book” of 1 954 (1), it was possible to discover how to be an ideal housewife, the woman for whom the maintenance of the house and the well-being of the family were fundamental priorities. The analysis of this post World War II society, founded on the “American Way of Life”, its influence on the condition of women and the questioning of this social model, constitute the basis of this study. The American society in the sass’s was mainly founded on the ideology of the housewife, shaped by magazines and other media targeted to women.
The questioning of this idealistic view of women and the transformation of these housewives into committed feminists at the end of the 1 ass’s will form the central subject of the research. After the Second World War, marriage was the main goal for girls; family life was their major aspiration, and the manifestation of a “perfect” existence. However, the dissatisfaction that women started to feel at the end of the sass’s became a national issue, summarized in the catch phrase ‘There is something missing’, deeply felt by a great many women.
Maintain the house, prepare meals, take care of the children, help them with heir homework, be the ideal wife, do the dishes and the laundry while remaining elegant; that made the day of most American women in the 1 ass’s. Gradually a feeling of insufficiency appeared: “Is that all there is to life? ” The main topic of this dissertation is to show that the evolution of this feeling toward a true claiming fight for women’s rights made the sass’s one key period for female emancipation.
As a historian, I have always been interested in this period, more particularly in its remarkable social and domestic esthetics and the duality between the eternal search for one “perfect life” and the reality of these women, many of homo lead a lonely and restricted life. A growing number of women looked for an answer to what Betty Friedman called “The problem that has no name” (Friedman 1997: 57) into therapists’ offices.
One crucial difference between us, modern women of the 201 g’s, and the woman of the sass’s, is that they did not have the choice. Their future was already defined: going to university to prepare for marriage or rather to while away their time, (especially between white middle-class women) meeting with a boy that would suit their family, get married, have children and a beautiful house. But suddenly, this life no longer appeared splendid; marriage was not so gratifying, the house became too small.
Women changed the decoration of the house, the color of their hair, many of them changed neighborhoods, but they were still not happy, they felt that something was missing: a life apart from the family, a personality which would be different from their husbands’; therefore, their fight for autonomy started. The main issue of this analysis IS based on the understanding of the process that women lived to manage to break this model of the “ideal woman” imposed by this culture full of remises. Thus they started to fight for a new female ideal.
Apparently, they had whatever a woman could wish: husbands with good jobs, healthy children, comfortable houses with large gardens, washing machines and televisions. Despite all these conveniences, women asked themselves every day, while preparing dinner or cleaning the house: “Who am l? ‘ This interrogation was growing among these housewives. It exposed a need for a change in the paradigms of the time, to force that society to understand that for most women maintaining a house was not all there was in life.
Or, as the moon expression says: “A baked potato is not as big as the world”. The objective of this study is to analyze the transformation of 1 ass’s women into feminists who looked for female autonomy; to understand how these housewives said no to all that was supposedly ideal and perfect, and started the fight for a better future, for a society that accepts women that live their emancipation and autonomy.
The methodology adopted is based on the literature concerning American feminism in the 1 ass’s and 1 ass’s, the contribution of women’s magazines to the construction of the ideology of the suffice and the testimonies of women of that time published in books devoted to the woman’s condition in the United States in the sass’s. The work of Betty Friedman, The Feminine Mystique, is the main source of information on the condition of these housewives.
Transparent testimonies give us an extremely clear vision Of how women lived this illusion of a “perfect life” at the time. 2 The interest of this research is to break the idea of the 1 ass’s as a period of glory, as ‘the golden days”, when American society was organized in such a way that women were supposed to be perfectly and undeniably happy. The revelation of the true face of this culture is valid and important not only for historical reasons, but especially to understand the American woman of the time.
Thanks to this feminine struggle, we, modern women, can choose between a family life and a professional life or choose to have both: to be a mother and a career woman at the same time. They showed that it is possible to work and have a family, that women are not obliged to choose between professional realization and personal fulfillment. Before the sass’s, women faced a dilemma: have a profession and a solitary life or have a family life by paving aside their career ambitions. It is thanks to the 1 ass’s women that today I can study for a future career and, at the same time, dream of a family life.
This new way Of life established at the time in the United States, the “American Way of Life”, and its influence on women, the construction of the ideology of the housewife and the crises of this ideology are the main points that will be developed in the first part of this work. The second part integrates the transformation of these women into committed feminists and their evolution until the revival of feminine activism in the sass’s and 1 ass’s. With Simons De Behavior, we understand the importance of this long fight undertaken by women to become free and independent: “We are not born woman, we become it’ (De Behavior 1948: 102). Who knows what women can be when they are finally free to become themselves? Who knows what women’s intelligence will contributes when it can be nourished without denying love? Who knows of the possibilities of love when men and women share not only children, home, and garden, not only the fulfillment of their biological roles, but the responsibilities and passions of the work that creates the human future and the full human knowledge of ho they are? It has barely begun the search of women for themselves.
But the time is at hand when the voices of the feminine mystique can no longer drown out the inner voice that is driving women on to become complete. Friedman, Betty. 1997. The Feminine Mystique. 4 1 . The American woman in the cuss: from the “ideal woman” to the woman in crisis 1. 1 . “The American Way of Lie’ and women Before the sass’s, America suffered from almost twenty years of stagnation, caused by the Depression and World War II. Social changes were made in response to the difficult conditions in these changing years.
When the war was over, American soldiers came home and society could finally focus on its future. At that moment America was finally ready to live its new way of life: “The American Way of Life”. When all these soldiers returned and started to found families, an enormous housing crisis took place, considering that no new house had been built in almost twenty years. The economy improved and the job market was into full expansion, but the housing crisis was extremely rigorous. This housing problem forced the population to leave the cities and to settle in new districts: the suburbs.
The suburbs appealed to almost all types of families, it was accessible to all, from the low-average class to the higher class. It was partly due to the fact that there were houses for everyone, from mansions in Greenwich, Connecticut, for $62,000 to small houses for $6,000 in the town of Daly, California. The life in the suburbs was tempting. People were far from the city but all job opportunities were still available, families lived in comfortable houses, with large gardens and the social life was the bond between all inhabitants. The search for the feeling of community was a racial characteristic bothers districts.
Barbecues, associations, cocktail parties and different types Of popular activities were a part Of everyday life for these families. Children were the center of the suburban life, they were the reason why so many families were leaving big cities and moving into these areas where safety and community feeling were a major feature. At the beginning the suburbs were not linked to cities by public transportation and few people had cars. This encouraged neighbors to help each other and to share cars to transport children. Women formed very tight groups hat offered mutual help and support.
Brett Harvey points out this feeling of community that many suburban women shared and counted on: Carol Freeman recalls the community of women in her suburb near San Diego: It was a warm, boring, completely child-centered little culture. We sat around in each others kitchens and backyards and drank a lot of coffee and smoked a million cigarettes and talked about our children. There was some competition, yes, but mostly we were young mothers and we were learning from each others children, too, so that we were able to get away some. (Harvey, 2002: 116)
Since the suburban development was a government answer against the housing crises, most residences were almost the same, the structure of these new neighborhoods was similar and people were living in almost identical houses all over the country. The real aim of the government was to encourage expansion outside city limits and to promote a family model based on the suburban lifestyle. Architects condemned these uniform houses planned in the same way, social thinkers criticized this homogeneity of race, age and class and anticipated the end of individuality and diversity.
But young couples did not bother, they ere happy to give their families a decent home in a prosperous and pleasing community. During her research for oral testimonies about lifestyles in the sass’s, B. Harvey describes women’s sentiments on finally getting a house for their families: The house was surrounded by a lake of mud. But I was thrilled it was a very exciting thing to have a house of your own. And everything you dreamed about was there, everything was working, brand-new, no cockroaches. You got a beautiful stainless steel sink with two drains, cabinets, drawers, a three-burner General Electric stove with oven, a Bended washing aching.
The only thing I had to buy for the house when We moved in was a fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink- the fixture was even there! (Harvey, 2002: 113) Another sector of this society benefited from the suburbs: the car industry. Families were living far from schools, from business and shopping areas and required a fast and efficient means of transportation. The car became a status symbol; manufacturers launched new models regularly and fostered the feeling that cars were an indication of success. With the development of these communities, business leaders saw an purport unity to develop their activities. Stores, malls and huge parking lots were installed on roads, therefore demonstrating further the well-known “consumer society”. 1. 1 . 1. The Consumer Society The demonstration of the publics desire and ability to buy new products was the increasing advertising industry. Families were being constantly stimulated to consume more and more. Americans were in love with this new society where almost all new technologies were available to anyone. “Tomorrow” and “the future” were expressions used repeatedly in ads for all kinds of products, room a simple vacuum cleaner to a super modern automobile.
People were fascinated with the new easy-to-clean fabrics named Kneeler, Celanese or Avocet, with frozen and canned food and with all the new technologies. During a time when American industry was reconstructing itself, families felt it was their “patriotic duty to consume” and that this uncontrolled rush for new items every week was society contribution to build the new “American Way of Life”. The postwar period was defined by Michael Seamen as a transition from the era of popular culture to the era of mass culture.
According to Seamen “mass culture” is better defined in terms of individual’s relation to the cultural phenomenon than in terms of scale: Thousands of people at an amusement park as opposed to many tens of millions worldwide watching the Super Bowl in January. Popular culture is more often than not, as participatory and interactive, whereas mass culture… Induces passivity and the prevarication of culture. (Seamen, 1999: 21) In addition, Karen demonstrates that not Only did consumption increase, but it became standardized: whereas In 1939 there were 3,900 super-markets n the United States, by 1944 there were more than 16,000.
Culture was no longer represented by an intellectual elite such as thinkers and museums, it had become much more popular and available to a larger public: (cultural power) depends on the production, promotion and dissemination of cultural artifacts. (Seamen, 1999: 137) 7 The economy opened up and the way of life of the population reflected this. These changes were particularly noticeable in fashion, in technological and industrial growth.
Computers, transistors, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and microwaves became popular and the majority of them were ere affordable. The most developed home appliance was by far the television set. Developed in the sass’s, television was the essential equipment in the house and in the life off 1 ass’s family. As a result, society experienced a “baby-boom”: there were 24. 3 million children between 5 and 14 years in the sass’s and 35. 5 million in the sass’s. In 1956 America had 13 million teenagers who wanted to live a different life from their parent’s generation.
They were more autonomous than the former generation; they did not have the concern to save money which their parents had at their age. All the none they gained was spent quickly in clothing, accessories for the hairstyle or rock’s roll records. In “Deliberate Speed”, W. T. Lehman Jar. Investigates this culture, arguing that the fifties were not a blank in cultural history and he affirms that the decade was “alive with vital art, new codes of behavior, and strong patterns of shape and energy that still survive without conventional acclaim” (1 998: 5).
The concept that the sass’s were a bland, conformist period, without real culture life was developed, according to Lehman, during the decade itself: If there was no serious culture, if balm was everywhere in the land, if everyman might happily oscillate between job and hearth, then Americans had successfully turned the corner from the discipline, privations, and social commitment of the war. Lehman, 1 998: 3) In Lemon’s persuasive concept, films like Rebel without a Cause, the music Of Elvis Presley, and Jack Kerouac On the Road Were not rare cultural expressions of a quiescent society, but instead constituted evidence, along with fast foods, interstate highways and motels, of a shift from “folk or oral culture” to “popular culture”; a transition similar to what Seamen identifies as the change from “popular” to “mass culture”.