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In the Beginning: The 50's and 60's

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 7 months ago

Before the Women's Movement, There Was the Housewife...


 In the early years of television the every day woman was represented through that of the housewife: the supportive wife, the nuturing mother, the housekeeper, and supplier of meals. Now 50 years later, the housewife is not represented so idealistically.

 The housewife persona was not characterized by one, or even two shows, at that time. It was almost every show on television that depicted the woman to be ideally at home taking care of the kids and house. The woman of the 50's and 60's was a support to the man of the house, not her own person. Whether it be in Leave it to Beaver with Ward Cleaver's too perfect wife, June, or in the squeaky-clean woman that was Donna Stone of The Donna Reed Show. This image of the perfect woman did not stop in the 60's, although then it was the only image of the woman on television. Women played subservient roles well into the 1970's thanks to The Brady Bunch's Carol Brady, whom might have gained more "family backlash" for divorcing if she had not found the perfect man to father her children before the show started.



Donna Reed- "The Perfect Woman" of the Early 60's




 Not only did Donna Stone personify everything that goes against today's evolved woman, but she taught her children to be the same way. One can simply listen to the music of TV daughter, Shelley Fabares, and hear that life to these women amounted to finding the perfect man to set up house with. Although the show was named after the woman, it certainly showed the image of a woman as a support to the man. Donna was always next to her husband, Alex Stone, or looking after her children. She was without goals and aspirations of her own outside of the household.




 Today's Housewife: The Women of Wisteria Lane




Not meant to be a study on gender today, per se, but a somewhat satirical reference to the concept of the "happy housewife," ABC came out with the show Desperate Housewives. The show revolves around five women living on the same street who lead somewhat deranged and less-than-ideal lives as housewives and mothers. The character of Bree is, perhaps, the best representation of how unlikely it is for the 60's-like housewife to seem natural in today's modernized world. She is without a career, raising two children and expecting for them to meet up to her almost impossible standards, and when the show starts, this is straining her marriage in her drive for picture-like perfection. Despite all of the madness that ensues, the creator writes Bree to be "able to keep up appearances at the country club, find time to bake muffins for her incarcerated arch nemesis, Maisy Gibbons, and somehow maintain her perfectly quaffed flip"(abc.com).


Through the character Lynette Scavo, the creator is able to express the problems with women giving up everything for the family. This character was "once best known as savvy career woman. In the work force, she was an over-achiever who could accomplish any task, but those days came to an end when she and her husband, Tom, decided to have children"(abc.com). The first season of the show depicts Lynette as a woman on the edge, who although she obviously loves her children, feels the pangs of regret and nosalgia over the fullfilling work life she left behind to be a stay at home mom.


These two characters are a humurous look at the kind of women television centered around in the 1960's, those happy to be subservient ladies who wanted nothing more than to wear an apron and help the children with their homework. Thanks to Mary Richards a new woman would surface starting in the 1970's, and replacing the apron was a key to the career world.



On to  The Emergence of a New Woman


Back to The Female Gender in Television



Works Cited


Desperate Housewives: Character Bios. 2006. 4 Dec. 2007. http://abc.go.com/primetime/desperate/index?pn=bio#t=character



Further Reading


Desperate Housewives. Creator Marc Cherry. ABC. 2004.


The Donna Reed Show Page. 21 Sept. 2004. 2 Dec. 2007. http://www.donnareedshow.com/


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