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.
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?