Once a season we take a slight break from reality and sit down for a chat about a fictional woman. This season we chose not one, but a group: The 50’s TV Mom – and their slightly more real counterparts, the 50’s suburbanite.
That’s right, what better way to embrace our modern womanhood, than to take a serious look at a stereotypical, unobtainable-to mere-mortals, obedient, white, heterosexual wife?
WOOT! Fire up the keyboard and get those letters of protest going!
(Ok, really? Don’t. Yikes… Thank you!)
DISCLAIMER: We get a bit, um, goofy in this episode. If you are looking for serious, somber history- look away. We present facts of course, but our usual speculation and lighthearted chatter is upped. Big time.
We DO look at this topic from a historical point of view, but first our exhaustive research of the women had to be undertaken. We narrowed our focus down to several whom we thought were true representatives of the genre.
(And we use words like “genre” to give the illusion that this is more brainy that it really is. We watched A LOT of TV)
Harriet Nelson (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet)
Donna Stone (The Donna Reed Show)
Lucy Ricardo (I love Lucy, Lucille Ball)
June Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver, Barbara Billingsley)
We touch on characters from other shows-Make Room for Daddy, Father Knows Best, The Dick van Dyke show- but we felt that these gave the best example of the ideals that the 50’s stereotypical housewife possessed.
We are, after all, all about history, so we lay the scene that created an environment to let such a symbol of femininity grow to idol status in American society. We talk the Great Depression and WWII because that is the background of the Moms of the 50’s. We discuss the economy, the sociological and economic changes in the country, throw out some statistics and paint a picture of the expectations and role of women in society.
Then we get to the giggly part and talk about the stereotypical woman herself. What her life was like vs the real life of the woman she represented during this era. We talk about both the dark and the light sides of this women’s life. We talk about the foods, the appliances, and the conveniences of the time.
And we talk fashion because we like retro fashion. A lot.
Bottom line: The 1950’s Television Housewife was a part of the American culture and a step in the path to where women are today.
Because we are off of our usual factual woman topic ( and possibly still riding a banana bread buzz) we will also stray from our usual methods….and will actually have * trumpets please* a giveaway!! Stay tuned for details!
Time Travel With The History Chicks
Right at the top of this list, we recommend this blog, Jen But Never Jenn. She conducted a 50’s Housewife Experiment that both amused and fascinated us. (Susan so much so that she decided to conduct her own, in a total rip off way. We contacted Jen and she was cool with it. More on this in an upcoming minicast) http://www.jenbutneverjenn.com/2010/05/welcome-to-50s-housewife-experiment.html
If you are enamored with the era, there is a blog and messageboard for that! Kitchy and fun! http://www.theapronrevolution.com/forum7.html
We Lol’d repeatedly at The Gallery of Regrettable Food: http://lileks.com/institute/gallery/
The link to the Striving Wife (the one that Susan could not remember) is here. Written by, and for, women who think the 50’s Housewife ideal is spot on. This is just one post of many on a blog devoted to the life of a Christian wife. The posts are written with respect and a very deep faith. http://thestrivingwife.com/what-makes-a-good-wife-the-1950s-ideal-vs-modern-day/
And we watched HOURS of old TV episodes Hulu.com – Father Knows Best, I love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show and The Dick Van Dyke show.
Speaking of Donna Reed, The Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts, a museum in Denison IA dedicated to her memory and work . Visit them online http://www.donnareed.org/html/templates/dr_section.php?dr_section=main
And here is a link to those Maidenform ads that cracked Beckett up: http://www.tressugar.com/Dreaming-Shirtless-Look-Back-Maidenform-Bra-Ads-3174297?
We KNOW you love your books! We recommend:
The Way Things never were by Norman Finklestein
Something from the Oven, by Laura Shapiro
And finally, the one that we loved, not just for this episode, but for many eras: The History of the Wife by Marilyn Yalum