1950s Family in Living Room.

1950 FAMILY

Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival, 1900-1950

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  • But much nostalgia for the 1950s is a result of selective amnesia-the same process that makes childhood memories of summer vacations grow sunnier with each passing year. The superficial sameness Of 1950s family life was achieved through censorship, coercion and discrimination. People with unconventional beliefs faced governmental investigation and arbitrary firings. African Americans and Mexican Americans were prevented from voting in some states by literacy tests that were not administered to whites. Individuals who didn't follow the rigid gender and sexual rules of the day were ostracized.

    Statistics showing that birthrates are down, divorce rates are up, the age atmarriage is up, and the marriage rate is down all point away from the 1950smodel family and toward a large array of family arrangements.

  • The 1950s family home was also very different from our own. Housework was much more difficult, as for example people did their washing by hand, instead of in a machine, and without fridge-freezers food had to be bought daily. It was less common for married women to work and many took on the childcare and housework, while their husbands went to work.

    Currently, in the family sitcoms of the 1980s and 1990s, television stillportrays traditional nuclear families, such as and , but there have been numerous shows showing families withdifferent structures. features a divorced mother with asister and mother-in-law as key characters, unlike the 1950s sitcom family whichwas isolated from extended family. Two other popular programs varied thetraditional nuclear family but still showed two distinctly separate roles: in two single parents lived together with reversed roles, he was thehousekeeper and she was the breadwinner; and in twodivorced mothers lived together, one taking the role of breadwinner and theother the homemaker. Then in two men shared parenting rolesbecause of the undetermined paternity of their shared daughter. (an obsoleteplot with today's DNA testing)

  • "The situation comedy ...has evolved into a ...continuous familychronicle..."1 It started with the 1950s television families,the Nelsons, the Cleavers, and the Andersons. They all portrayed white,traditional, middle-class nuclear families with a working father, homemakermother, and 2 or 3 children. They all got along happily dealing with blandcrises that barely caused a ripple in their ideal lives. The producers of thesefamilies showed "...not the reality of most family lives, but a postwarideology..."2

1950 Family Date, Dinner In A 1950's Home - Duration: 10:01.

The policymakers of the Fifties deserve praise for their social wisdom in supporting measures creating social and economic space for the family, and the nation’s ordinary men and women deserve even higher praise for filling that space with child-rich, maritally stable families, families that delivered tremendous economic, civic, and psychological benefits to the nation. To be sure, neither policymakers nor ordinary Americans seem to have figured out how to ameliorate dangerous social isolation of the newly suburban family home, how to reverse that home’s dangerous loss of productive functions, or how to resolve the “festering contradiction of modern womanhood” created by isolating women in such a function-poor home. No doubt these failures help account for the spectacular unraveling of the 1950s family in the maelstrom of the 1960s. An awareness of these failures and their consequences can only dampen our twenty-first century enthusiasm for the Fifties. So we raise not three but only two and a half cheers for the family-centered achievement of that decade. Nonetheless, that achievement looks so very good compared to the economic, civic, and psychological malaise we have made for ourselves in the opening decades of the twenty-first century that we will voice our cheers loudly—and hope that policymakers and ordinary Americans alike hear them.