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.
The real problem in the fifties, was not the “American Dream” or the consumerism, but the lack of choices for women. You could be a secretary, a nurse, a teacher or a social worker. Or get married. When I expressed interest in a possible career in science, my college advisor told me I shouldn’t worry about it; I would get married. My parents were sure I would never marry; I would be an old maid like one of my father’s sisters. I think I got married just to spite them.
I tried being a secretary–that was almost as bad as housework. I really wanted to be an artist. My father would get apoplectic every time I mentioned it. So I was a good little girl and went from my father’s house, after an all too brief sojourn in a college dorm, to my husband’s house. Fortunately, he enjoyed and supported my need to become an artist.
I love the new name…very fitting…I am changing it immediately on my blog…great post too! I have fashioned my marriage on my own terms, and so far,so good…we eat out a lot, I don’t wear much make-up and I do what I love to do, while choosing not to have kids…
And we are still attracted to each other after 13 years…no affairs..no overt drama with drugs or alcohol. I consider myself very happy. But it did take a disaster of a marriage to a bonehead to see what a truly good man looks like…and appreciate.
I do really like your new name. That’s what this is….a creative studio. Why I didn’t see this sooner, I don’t know.
I became a wife and mother in 1961. My mother was an architectural engineer married to a drunk who did nothing. She always struggled with the fact that Women could be draftmen but not architects themselves. Starting her own business kept us fed, and kept her away from her drunken husband until she became the drunken wife. I don’t think she ever became caught in the housewife stage at all.
Me….I always had to work. No choice, but I was suckered in to the wife as pretty to keep her husband. Wife as good cook too. So I read LHJ for the reciepes.
I wasn’t a deep enough person to be depressed although I batted over 50 percent on that list. I recall when I married I thought, now I must live life through my husband!
Awwk!!!! Hmm–NOW I’M depressed!!!! Because, I can see signs of it happening again with some of the young college students.
It’s like the article is written in a foreign language.