Amazing how things come together sometimes. Last week, answering that meme, I wrote about how depressed I was when I was supposedly living the American dream. Over the weekend a friend sent me these rules for being a good wife, dated 2 months after I got married.
Googling it before I wrote this post, I found a controversy about its authenticity. I don’t know whether this exact article is authentic, but I am certain those ideas about being a good wife were widely promulgated at the time. If you have any doubts, look at The Ladies Home Journal from the fifties. It was my mother’s bible, as she tried to make me into a good little housewife. Her most repeated instruction was: "marriage is a compromise and the wife compromises 90% of the time." Obviously, she didn’t think much of my ability to compromise.
What I find most appalling about the controversy is that young people don’t really understand that the sentiments were real; and that it could happen again. Many women worked and were independent in the thirties and forties. After World War 2 ended, men wanted to take away our independence; they wanted us out of those good jobs. They also wanted to sell us all those consumer items that were being produced. Housewives were encouraged to think they couldn’t live without the newest refrigerator or vacuum cleaner; these items became a substitute for self esteem.
Finally, last night, PBS aired an amazing documentary about lobotomies, a popular "solution" applied, until about 1959, to people (mostly women) who were depressed or psychotic. As I watched I realized I could easily have been one of those unlucky victims. Thanks again, Betty Friedan.