When anything pertaining to the 1950s comes up, the thoughts of most people gravitate to envision the likes of the iconic TV greats of the era, like Lucille Ball from “I Love Lucy,” June Cleaver from the classic show “Leave it to Beaver,” Laura Petrie from the comedic “Dick Van Dyke” show and several other sustained holdovers, from the higher-rankers among the listings of the times. For anyone too young to have been around during those times–as well as those who were too young to remember–what these women all collectively represent is a very commonly embraced stereotypical woman of the 50’s.
The Role of the 1950s Homemaker
These women (or characters of women) were carefully presented to TV land viewers, as a hopeful representation of an ideal to which all women were directed, by virtue of following suit. And generally, there was quite a bit of sameness when it came to most aspects of family life dynamics those days–only separable by class and wealth. Less heard about were the many female pioneers whose contributions were highly lauded and made significant advancements in practically every field of science, aeronautics, and industry in existence. And the ones where no women’s names are found surely owe their success to many, now nameless but important behind-the-scenes women of the 1950s.
The Sisters Behind the “Box Office”
During the 1950s, women were highly instrumental in the movie industry, as screenwriters, producers and even directors. Sisters-in-law Muriel and Betty Box got a break from Betty’s husband (Muriel’s brother,) Sidney, which catapulted them to movie producing fame. Betty became Britain’s most successful movie producer of the times. So much, in fact, that she was nicknamed “Betty Box Office.” Muriel earned fame and success as a director, who had to slip past many current male movie directors to make her mark, but both sisters did.
The Birth of Feminism
World War ll brought about the employment of many women at home, with such a significant number of men off fighting on the front lines. After the war ended, growing numbers of women began to look for academic and employment opportunities over looking for husbands, beginning the era of women’s rights. Feminism, 50’s style was authored by Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 “The Second Sex,” but it would be the early 1950’s before Betty Friedan’s book “The Feminine Mystique” would draw sufficient attention to truly upset the existing domestic status quo.
To Mention a Few
Jacqueline Cochran, in 1953 became the first woman to break the sound barrier, and in 1955, Rosa Parks made it impossible for bus seating to be withheld from anyone forever–and much more progress ensued for civil rights, thanks to her.In 1957, Althea Gibson was the first African American to win the All England title in tennis at Wimbledon. Maria Goeppert-Maier’s work on the structure of the atomic nucleus netted her the offer of a position at the University of California’s new San Diego campus in 1959. In 1951, microbiologist Esther Lederberg discovered a virus that infects bacteria, at the University of Wisconsin. In the mid 1950s, Chien-Shiung Wu was able to disprove the law of parity, by conducting experiments using cobalt-60, and netted her sponsors-and not her a 1957 Nobel Prize. Today, Wu would have been the one to receive that prize.