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History of the United States
Politics and Government
Decade - 1950s

To what extent were women in the 1950's second class citizens?


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Answered 2009-03-21 04:43:01

If you mean the USA, they were definitely not. Do you know any women who were wives and mothers during the 1950s? I do. Both my grandmothers had more character and remarkable values than any woman I meet in my daily life today, in 2004. Neither of them ever worked outside the home, and one of them never had any desire to drive a car. They BOTH stayed married all their lives -- no divorce -- and raised 3 children, and 5 children, respectively, who are productive citizens with no criminal record. That is FIRST CLASS in my book! Being a woman, instead of the "modern" definition of indoctrinated feminism -- that is, trying to be a man -- is NOT "second class" in any way! It is simply being a WOMAN as nature intended! (A healthy caution: Don't let Western-based "political correctness" color your thinking, your family life, or your questions or education!) If you mean in some other country ... you should look into the situation in The Sudan, where slavery is still practiced. Use your imagination! Check how things are now at the related web link to UN Statistics, and think whether things were better then. I assume you are young. Those of us with long memories know the answer. Literacy? Why waste that on girls? Much of the world doesn't educate girls to the same extent as boys (twice as many girls as boys do not get to school at all). Does you mother have more academic qualifications than your father? How many couples do you know aged over 50 which have a wife more educated than her husband? How else can you check on the 1950s? How many senior women on your local university staff? -- the proportion can be argued to be caused by a mix of past prejudice and more recent barriers. And try asking older school teachers about who studied for teaching certificates and who studied for degrees and got paid more. Could a woman of the 50s get a paying job, and what proportion of a man's wages would she be paid? Being born female is very expensive now in terms of the �gender pay gap�, but in the 1950s many more women would not have had any opportunity to earn their own money. (And some women teachers were still required to resign on marriage, even in the US and Europe.) Being totally dependent on the money handed to you by your husband or father is pretty second-class, however often you are told that homemaking is a praiseworthy thing to do. (An immigrant to the UK explained "We treat our mother with too much honour to expect her to walk through the streets, we do all the errands like shopping for her, while she stays safely at home" -- would you enjoy that sort of "honouring" in a virtual prison?) Of course there was and is plenty of unpaid work for women. Current estimates are that women work 60% of all hours worked in the world, and earn 10% of all wages paid. (It's not all housework -- many women feed their families through subsistence farming.) Some women of the 1950s might have thought that to be merely "second" class would be a great improvement -- and people still may. Have you read the Anti-Slavery League website? Let us celebrate the fact that these days greater efforts are being made to prevent forced marriages. Since the 1950s, women have gained equal voting rights in another 10 countries, though there are still 5 where they are legally second-class citizens in this respect. The number of women holding elected office was very low in the 50s -- how do you rate it now? There is another drastic result of being treated as second-class. Without free medical care, women become disabled and die prematurely at much higher rates than the men. Girl babies are actually healthier than boys, this is about allocation of resources -- both within the family and within the state. In the 1950s there were a few countries which had universal free medical care, but the national US schemes for the poor and elderly were only started in the mid 1960s. (Most beneficiaries of those US schemes are women -- and the money allocation for them is being cut. The UN says �the great majority� of those living in poverty are women. Not first-class, for sure.) Even at home! Do you know families with teenagers where the boys get better treatment than the girls -- it was standard across the world in the 50s? Do you know people where the title "head of the family" is still taken seriously, as it often was even in "western" democracies in the 1950s? Would you rate those women "second-class" or not? Have you ever considered that public transport is a "women's issue"? Who drives cars and who rides the bus? And in the 1950s, who walked for miles? Even at school! Did your mother go to a girls-only school? Find someone who did more than about 30 years ago, and ask them about the quality of the science teaching. In some mixed schools there were subjects which girls were not allowed to take � not just carpentry, but also technical drawing etc. Things are better now, but despite the publicity about inadvertent discrimination, try counting who still gets most of the attention in a mixed classroom. In the 1950s many more boys than girls went to university -- this is one of the clearest improvements over the years, in many different countries. Going back a bit further than the 50s, do you know why Ottawa has a big statue of women apparently holding a tea party? Read "Background Information" at the bottom of the link to BPW Canada. Yes, women were second-class citizens in the 1950s. What is a fair test to decide whether at least some of them still are in your community? If you are feeling strong, try this the web link to the UNICEF Report called "The intolerable status quo: Violence against women and girls" I totally agree with the second poster and I grew up in the 40s and was a teen in the 50s. Below is a quote taken from some of my research on American/Canadian families: "Women who failed to conform to the June Cleaver/Margaret Anderson role of housewife and mother were severely criticized. A 1947 bestselling book, The Modern Woman, called feminism a "deep illness," labeled the idea of an independent woman a "contradiction in terms," and explained that women who wanted equal pay and equal educational opportunities were engaged in a "ritualistic castration" of men. Women were often denied the right to serve on juries, convey property, make contracts (including leases on apartments), and establish credit in their own names (including mortgages and credit cards)." That's just the start! I am Canadian and there is really no difference between us and the American culture with the exception of the U.S. being a much older country rich in history, more population and more money. When I started high school in the late 1950s I took "Home Economics" and was given this booklet to live my life by and this is exactly what was in it: A woman should clean the house every single day, look after the children, do the yard work and have time to put on her perky house dress and pearls (real or not) and be attractive for her husband when he came home from work and not moan and groan if he had a friend with him and hadn't bothered to phone you first to warn you. YOU WERE TO FETCH HIS SLIPPERS AND GIVE HIM HIS PIPE OR LIGHT A CIGARETTE FOR HIM! I nearly popped my bobby socks when I read that one! Was I a dog? I din thin so! A woman was to accommodate her husband in every way no matter how tired or ill she was. After all, her husband was out busting his buns for the family. Why? Simply because women weren't considered good material for being out in the workforce. Oh yes, there were the choices of being a teacher, nurse, airline stewardess or secretary. We were taught to sew and cook (that's OK by me) but I refused to abide by those rules even back then and I was no one's dawg! I felt even then that men and women should be equal and respectful of each other and yes, I got into lots of trouble for sounding off in all the wrong place, but have never regretted it. In time, it landed me good jobs that some men would have loved to have had. I worked during the late 1950s and up as a Secretary and even in 1972 when I worked for an oil company I had to learn the hard computers (not these easy ones we have today) and they filled walls upon walls. It took months of hard work to learn that computer and I worked along side a very nice man. When we learned all there was to know about it he got a hefty pay check and a hefty raise. I looked at my pay check and saw nothing so I turned a shade of red that made me look like I was going to explode and raced into my boss. I demanded to know where my raise was. I was told I was not going to get one and when I asked why I was not given an answer. Even the fellow I worked with sided with me. We both had the same intellectual level and knew the same things, but I wasn't getting that raise. I took the risk and told them to stuff it and went back to my regular job. I got to stay, got a raise (not what I should have) but refused to work on those large computers. I made my statement and I was sticking to it. Alcoholism rose more than any other time in the 1950s (not even during the good old prohibition times or during and after WW2 was it as bad as the 50s) and abuse was much higher than it is today and women had to take it! I could go on and on about this and I have no idea where the first poster got their info, but I know it's not true. Women did not have the opportunities they have today (and they are still fighting for many rights they deserve) and no, I'm not a feminist at heart, but detest unfairness. If you can do the job then you should be paid for it. I do love my husband, and we share the housework because we both work. If he works over-time and I don't I have the respect to pick up the pace and so does he. Before purchasing a large item we discuss it and decide on it one way or the other. There is no disrespect between the two of us and I fought for that right from the 1950s and damned proud of it! I suggest for the first poster that you go on those sites the 2nd poster gave you and if you really want to get into the 1950s then try www.google.com and type in "American/Canadian family life in the 1950s." You'll really get a wake-up call. I dont have anything to add to the second two nicely detailed answers but the first person obviously just took it personally and decided to defend herself as a woman and not actually use any factual data. And that is why i say: ^^^ hahaha, sorry i really had to do that. (jonas brothers thing, you wouldn't understand)

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