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Thread: Ok, so some things in the golden era were not too cool...

  1. #1291
    Bartender LizzieMaine's Avatar
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    May 2006
    Where The Tourists Meet The Sea

    That began to change in the thirties with the rise of a generation of "business girls" who had firm career plans in mind all along. Broadcasting was an especially fertile field for these women, with quite a few women holding influential positions in network radio, on both sides of the microphone.

    Working-class women, of course, had always held jobs and raised families -- the percentage of married women working outside the home had been rising steadily since 1900, and actually declined only slightly for a year or so after WW2 before beginning to rise again. As you say, this was largely economic circumstance, but with America having been an overwhelmingly working-class country until the late fifties, the idea of *anyone* having a "career" instead of a clock-punching job was very much the exception across the board. And the women who returned to the kitchen after the war were largely middle-class or upper-middle-class women -- working class women kept the same factory jobs they'd held before the war. There was never any rush of demobilized servicemen applying for jobs packing sardines or wiring radio chassis.

    Chivalry, and all its glossy appurtenances, for what it's worth, was far less prevalent than its modern advocates imagine. The average man of the Era was far more William Bendix than Ronald Colman. And the average woman was far more Patsy Kelly than Donna Reed.

    As always, I recommend Stephanie Coontz's eye-opening study "The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap" for a hard-social-science examination of the realities of family life and the role of women before and after WW2.
    Last edited by LizzieMaine; 10-18-2014 at 10:37 AM.
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  2. #1292
    Call Me a Cab Fading Fast's Avatar
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    Aug 2012
    New York City
    Quote Originally Posted by ChiTownScion View Post
    One thing of the Golden Era that was not cool at all: limited career options for women. Women have always raised their kids while holding down jobs, but from all that I've read it was more in the realm of dealing with an economic hand that had been dealt by circumstance rather than a young girl planning out a professional career from Day One and determining that she really had all options open.

    Seems that at best all a really bright woman had was an Either/Or option: either be a wife and a mother, OR choose a career......and the career options were not all that wide. Lillian Moller Gilbreth, of "Cheaper By the Dozen" fame, raised eleven kids as a widow while working as a self- educated industrial engineer, but she was an extremely exceptional person.

    And yeah, I know all about those Rosie the Riveter days of the Second World War, but as soon as the guns fell silent, women were essentially told to stand down so that a vet (by implication, a male) could have a job. The sexism of the Era was the downside of the perceived chivalry that was part and parcel of that Paradise Lost.. a paradise that really never existed.
    I agree with everything said here and love that today, with caveats that not everything is perfect today, most young women can have almost any career they want / have the ability to have and raise a family. The fact that it is hard to do both is not, IMHO, always some kind of sexism, sometimes it's just reality for both men and women working and raising children: Work is demanding and raising a family is demanding and doing both at the same time is hard.

    Okay, but the real point of my post is that - and remember, I agree with all the above said ChiTownScion - many women did do both and well in the Golden Era. I know two examples (one my grandmother) and, in her case, she was very accepted in her work place. And the same holds for the other example I know. In some communities, woman weren't kept out of work roles or denounced for working and raising a family, but I think these two examples are just that - examples of situations that don't fit the dominant model of the time.

    For me, knowing these two women when I was growing up, seeing them as business women and seeing them accepted in their work and social worlds, made it harder for me to see the prejudices and stereotyping most women faced because my immediate and formative experiences didn't fit the dominant cultural view.

    That's it - no big point to make other than my one-off experience was atypical and it took me a while to see the bigger cultural problem.

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