A Reading of Sheila Hardy’s Book: A 1950’s Housewife.

This book was one of my source materials for the life-jacking experiment I undertook almost a year ago. For a month I became the perfect 1950’s wife, and couldn’t pull it off for much longer (out of total exhaustion!)

Simple Insights from the Book

1. About Women:

  • Girl’s education was limited, but some opportunities to expand skills were available. However, these skills were focused to the life and duties expected of them as married women.
  • Young women were treated differently once they got married. Were before, they had a lot of autonomy about their life, money and work, once married they were perceived as subservient to their husbands.
  • Society’s main goal and achievement for women was marriage.

2. About Marriage:

  • Marriage was the most significant event of a young woman’s life and after courtship, time during the engagement period was focus on saving for married life essential and preparations for the future home.
  • Most women went into marriage with very little intimacy experience and very little, if not misleading, knowledge of sex.
  • Young married couples, while very mindful about their fiancés and budget-conscious, still had access to plenty of social activities and enjoyed their time outside and at-home with fun (yet simple) entertainments.

3. About The Role of The Young Wife:

A young wife was to make the home a pleasant, clean and cozy place for her husband and herself.

Main Duties:

  • Housekeeping. This meant cleaning and caring for the house and all their belonging (doing laundry and ironing, cleaning dishes, floors and windows, beds, baths and garden.
  • Shopping. She shopped for essentials for cooking daily. She shopped for items for the house, or for stuff she needed to make or mend clothes, etc.
  • Cooking. She planned, prepared and cooked all meals; breakfast, lunches and dinner for her husband, herself and every other member of the family.
  • Keeping Her Self. She had to care for her personal appearance at all times.

Bonus: Women’s Wardrobe & Make up.

  • Women wore a shift or apron (pinny) over their dresses to keep them clean while they worked around the house.
  • The signature dress, tight around the waist and with an A skirt below the knee, was common up until the late 50′s, after that a more body-fitting dress got in style.
  • Women who worked wore suites to the office, never pants.
  • Make up was simple, yet sharp, and not supposed to be put on or retouched in public.
  • Most women knew how to sew and making dresses and other items of clothing from patter was “in vogue”. (I remember seen a collection of this patterns at my grandmother’s house, I even wore some plaid overalls she made me after one pattern)

Additional 50’s Trivia:

  • Cultural Highlights: Max Factor for makeup and Ponds for creams. Gloves and hats everywhere.
  • Life after War: Living in the aftermath of a nuclear bomb, harnessing nuclear power. Rationalization gives way to variety and international products.
  • Daily modes of transportation: Bicycles, Bus, Cars were driven by men/husband.
  • Modes of Communication: Telegraph (mostly bad news), Telephones (gaining popularity, but not yet mainstream), Letters (for communication with family and friends)
  • Media: Radio programs still rein. Films are a weekly diversion for young couples (you can smoke inside the theater) and TV programs are gaining popularity, American television programs spreading cultural influences (going mainstream)

After I finished the book, I was left wanting more details, but overall, I enjoyed the reading and getting to know the life experience of a woman who actually lived through that era, and her fond memories of it, good and bad.

What is the time period you love to read about and research?

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