A denouncement of the housewife stereotype imposed on post-World War II women
Not June Cleaver
Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960
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edited by Joanne Meyerowitz
In the popular stereotype of post-World War II America, women abandoned their wartime jobs and contentedly retreated to the home. These mythical women were like the 1950s TV character June Cleaver, white, middle-class, suburban housewives. Not June Cleaver unveils the diversity of postwar women, showing how far women departed form this one-dimensional image.
This collection of fifteen revisionist essays charts new directions in American women's history and provides connections to scholarship that, until recently, has focused primarily on the years before 1945 and after 1960. The contributors explore the work and activism of postwar American women and also point to the contradictions and ambiguities in postwar concepts of gender.
Including examinations of such aspects of postwar women's history as the arrival of Chinese women immigrants in New York City; women's changing presence in the labor force and in union organization; and the precarious lives of women abortionists, lesbians, and single mothers, the authors effectively demonstrate how postwar women's identities were not only an expression of their gender but also of their class, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, occupation, and politics.
"An astonishingly successful effort to rewrite the history of American women in the postwar era... [that] challenges well-established interpretations of postwar gender ideology, shows how gender politics were integral to Cold War politics, and complicates and deepens our understanding of postwar women...working and middle-class, Chicana, white, black, and Asian...and essential text for historians of the Cold War and postwar gender politics"
1. Introduction: Women and Gender in the Postwar United States Joanne Meyerowitz
Part I: Women and Wage Labor
Part II: Activist Women and Their Organizations
Part III: Constructions of Womanhood
Part IV: Sexual Outlaws and Cultural Rebels
Contributors: Harriet Hyman Alonso, Xiaolan Bao, Wini Breines, Dorothy Sue Cobble, Ruth Feldstein, Dee Garrison, Deborah A. Gerson, Susan M. Hartmann, Regina G. Kunzel, Susan Rimby Leighow, Susan Lynn, Donna Penn, Margaret Rose, Rickie Solinger, and the editor.
In the series
Critical Perspectives on the Past, edited by Susan Porter Benson, Stephen Brier, and Roy Rosenzweig, is concerned with the traditional and nontraditional ways in which historical ideas are formed. In its attentiveness to issues of race, class, and gender and to the role of human agency in shaping events, the series is as critical of traditional historical method as content. Emphasizing that history is itself an interpretation of material events, the series demonstrates that the historian's choices of subject, narrative technique, and documentation are politically as well as intellectually constructed.