Many people look back at the 1950s and think that it was an ideal time period. When you look more closely at the 1950s it is clear that women were not treated fairly at all. Women basically had to be married to have a life. They had to depend on their husbands to be the breadwinner while they stayed home and took care of the family and the home. Many of these ideas are still present in today’s society but at the same time many women have broken the mold and become independent.
In some cases women are marrying men for financial stability and becoming less independent. I come from a family where my mother is the breadwinner and my parents are separated. My entire life my mother has told me to go to college and get educated. She has instilled in me the values of being an independent woman and never having to be with a man because he can financially support me. I use her as an example because she has always been financially independent and has never had to depend on a man. Sadly this is not the case for many women. There is a link between the life of women in 1950s and women today. Work, family and marriage dependency and issues are and were present today and in the 1950s.
Marriage was a status symbol for women in the 1950s. In Stephanie Coontz’s article “What we really miss about the 1950s,” she discusses demographic issues such as the rising birth rate after the war and the lower educational rate as issues that led women to become dependent on marriage. The gender roles of the time period were that “nearly 60 percent of kids were born into male breadwinner-female homemaker families” (Coontz 7). Even today women are staying with men because they can support them financially. In “What do low income mothers say about marriage?” by Kathryn Edin, many women believe “the total earnings a father can generate is clearly the most important dimension for mothers” (Edin 357). Money is a huge factor for most marriages. Women are willing to let men be the breadwinners, which leaves themselves with very few options. This choice mirrors the lives of women in the 1950s. They got married because of financial stability that marriage offers to most women.
Not only is it finances that make women stay in a marriage but respect. Today many women believe “that respectability is greatly enhanced by a marriage tie a routinely employed partner” (Edin 359). Women are willing to stay in an unhappy marriage because of money and respect. This just doesn’t seem right when they can earn respect for themselves elsewhere and be financially independent. Without a husband in the 1950s “women were unable to take out loans or even credit cards in their own name and… they were excluded from juries in many states” (Coontz 15). Husbands were the key to many “luxuries” of the time. Today taking out loans and getting personal credit cards seem normal to women but back then it was not going to happen unless you were married. Women did not have options outside of marriage and they were stuck because they had to raise the family and did not receive education beyond high school.
In contrast to the 1950s more and more women are going to college and graduating today. This is completely opposite of women in the 1950s. The education rates of women in the 1950s decreased while a man’s increased (Coontz 6). Today women “have closed the college education gap and their graduation rate now eclipses men’s” (Stone 324). Women are high achieving and want to work to support themselves. In short they want it all. That includes a family and children. Compared to today very few children “had mothers who worked in the paid work force” in the 1950s (Coontz, 7). Women did not work as much or at all compared to women today. Now women are combining work and motherhood “in greater proportions than ever before: 77 percent in 2004. Over all, these trends show little sign of women reverting to 1950s stereotypes” (Stone 327). Women are showing that they do not need a man to support them and thus they can get married because they want to and not because they feel they have to. An example of the working mother is Miranda from “Sex and the City.” Miranda is a very successful lawyer in New York City and at the same time she is also a mother. She shows how women can have it all and make it work. Women deserve to be able to be mothers and have a job. It comes down to choice for these women.
Independence in all aspects of the word is what I have been taught by mother and what I will teach my future daughter. My mother does not have to depend on anyone and she wants the same for me. Women should want to be successful and independent. They need to know that they can change their lives if they have the want to do so. We can have it all if we work for it. It is sad to think that even today some women are living the life of women in the 1950s. That time period may look ideal but when you look under the surface you see how unfairly women were treated and how they were trapped. It seems that the actions and steps women are taking today show how they do not want to go back in time. They do not want the “cookie cutter” life like many of their parents had. Women have worked hard to gain independence and why should we give it up?
Coontz, Stephanie. "What We Really Miss about the 1950s." (1997).
Edin, Kathryn. "What Low-Income Single Mothers Say about Marriage?" Social Problems 47.1 (2000).
Stone, Pamela. "Getting to Equal: Progress, Pitfalls, and Policy Solutions on the Road to Gender Parity in the Workplace." Pathways Magazine. Spring 2009.