Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana 12/16/1863 – 10/26/1952)
I grew up in the south during an era when children were cautioned not to speak in the presence of adults. Violations of that rule brought forth a swift reminder that “Children are to be seen and not heard.” I discovered that years later the same rule pretty much applied to women.
In the fifties, high school home economics promoted the domestic arts for girls. It covered all areas of domestic drudgery, cooking, cleaning and sewing. Civic and social science classes did not cover the history of the suffrage movement.
Women’s magazines filled page after page with cooking and house keeping tips. In our spare time, we could find ways to be more beautiful, more interesting and focus on the man in our life.
Television comedies featured a hapless woman involved in a domestic crisis. The plot line usually fell along the lines of the woman getting into a jam and preventing her hubby from finding out about it. Programs like “Father Knows Best” reinforced the concept that the male was the authority in the household.
The same limits that ruled our behavior as children followed us as adults and our opinions counted for little else other than amusement. We had babies, cooked, cleaned and supported our spouse’s efforts.
If our spouse’s behavior was not within the confines of the marital agreement, somehow we were inadequate or failed to hold his interest. Options for escape were limited and often resulted in deprivation for our children.
Women discovered an unequal workplace balance sheet. Men who were outspoken and opinionated occupied the home court position as go-getters. Women with those qualities were smart asses or ball busters. Human resource departments waltzed around anti-discrimination laws with a wink and a nod from management.
Many of the benefits women enjoy today are the result of those who worked to bring about change. We are in danger of losing many of those rights. Elected officials demonstrate an overwhelming desire to return to the fifties. Potential candidates’ platforms almost exclusively focus on limiting women’s rights. Lack of participation and apathy mark us as easy prey.
In Texas, one-third of eligible voters vote. We are not likely to find a candidate who fulfills all of our requirements, but we must support the one who will defend our rights.
Aside from poodle skirts and rock and roll, there isn’t all that much about the fifties most women would care to revisit.