The Modern Day 50s Housewife
for old-fashioned housewives living in a modern day world.
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Enjoyed reading your article. I was born in 1951 in a mid-size Midwestern city so I remember life in the 50s very well. Much in the article rings familiar. A few things that I remember differently. Radio programs faded out by the mid-50s and middle class people bought small black and white sets that were placed in the living room although people didn’t watch a great deal–only three networks. Laundry took a great deal of time. Home clothes dryers didn’t become common until later in the 60s so women would haul the wet laundry outside to pin it on lines and then wait until it dried to fold and take it back in–often to the basement. “No iron” wasn’t common so women spent a lot of time ironing as well. Children weren’t walked to school except on the first day. Even kindergarten students walked themselves to school and back. In warm weather, people sat on their front porches and the kids (there were lots) ran around outside until dark. People, also, invited each other for dinner much more than today. The evenings were more relaxing for families than today because the household management and chores were taken care of during the day by the work-at-home mom. Life wasn’t idyllic but children and adults led a much less stressed life than today. Sadly.
Hello Teresa, I just happened on this web-site and read your memories of what it was like in the ’50’s, I was born January 1947 and the age of the ’50’s is so strong in my mind. I remember the Ice-man, the rag-man, the knife sharpening man the milk man, and so many other folks that would walk down the street selling their wares. Playing outside till dark and hearing my mother call to come on in. Life was easier in a sense, more peaceful and contented. You learned to live within your income. I don’t believe credit cards were a thing yet at that time. I still try to live this life with my family though my 6 children do live a more modern lifestyle.
I just loved your manifesto and agree with it 100%! I’m only 18 but I absolutely love vintage and really want to be a housewife! I think it’s true they get looked down upon these days but I think it’s a real and very important job! Even identifying as a feminist myself I don’t see the housewife role as being at all oppressive! Thank you for this blog! 🙂
I read your blog with interest. I did so with an open mind, clearing it of prejudice. I thought most of my peers schooled in feminism, would find it an easy target for mockery just from the title as “modern” and “50s” seem so disjointed. But, true feminists respect the work and points of view of other women however different they may be from ours. So, I read through your entries. I found many of your tips on organizing your household useful (in whatever era!) and your entries on relationships personal and sincere. I thought your manifesto was honest, and probably true for a lot of women. I know you don’t speak for all women, but as a point of view, it was enlightening — I never thought of it in the way you experienced it. If the choice to give up a career and all the trappings a “modern” woman has led to your genuine happiness, then I applaud you.
I will however, point out that rather than demonizing the feminist movement as the culprit for making women unhappy, it is the misunderstanding of feminism and what it genuinely fought for that can. Because in its very essence, feminism fought for your right to make your own decisions about your life and what would make you happy. If that meant choosing to prioritize family and be a housewife, well and good —- and if that means, for other women, traveling the world, writing a book, being a CEO of her own company, then so be it too. What feminism fought for was YOUR FREEDOM to choose what was BEST FOR YOU. Without it, someone else decided, whether it was the church, the government or the patriarchy, someone else presuming to know what makes you happy (much like the “feminists” who told you you HAD to have a career), and defined your one and only role in life. Yes, you can be many things in life — wife, mother, businesswoman, athlete, pilot, doesn’t matter. One role is not mutually exclusive and yes, while many women are unhappy to be working moms and may choose to go your route, many are also happy being the other.
I think it is also important to point out that condoning inequality is unfortunate. Yes men and women are intrinsically different – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t enjoy the same rights and freedoms in everyday life. We’re all essentially human, and we should have equal rights. I work with an international humanitarian organization that works for women and girls to be seen and treated as human beings: it combats all forms of violence against women and girls, fights for education to be available to girls in places where a female is valued less than the cattle, champions the right of girls not to be child brides (barefoot,pregnant and poor at 13 years of age and susceptible to early death due to complications of immature motherhood) and fights against cultural rituals that inflict pain on and degrade women to reinforce the idea that women are the property of their husbands. It is important I think to remember that you have the luxury that millions of women don’t have — and that is a choice about their lives, a culture that values you as a human being with choices, access to education (also clean water, food, housing, and everything else women in conflict-ridden places or countries where women are bought and sold don’t have) and a voice. You live in a place that values you enough so that you have the freedom and the right to have a blog — even if it’s a blog that disparages, of all things, the equality between men and women.
My grandmother was a housewife from the 40s. She raised 10 successful children through WWII alongside a good man who always treated her lovingly and well. But she was also the first feminist I ever knew. She always wanted to go to college but her family elders thought that would be a “waste” on a woman and she forever knew that was an injustice. In her heart she knew that educating herself and pursuing something of her own,by her own, was what she wanted alongside being a good mother and wife. So she enrolled in dress-making school, not exactly Harvard, but it was something she knew could help improve her knowledge and skills for something other than keeping house. From there, she built a small dressmaking business and sold her creations on consignment, hiring other women and helping them gain some financial independence. My grandfather didn’t require her to contribute monetarily to the household so she had a little nest egg — her own money. This afforded small luxuries for her family, and sometimes, came in handy when my grandfather’s business hit down periods as business sometimes does. She always told my mom and her granddaughters that it was important for a woman to have a sense of her own independence, her own strength and her own abilities to raise the family should for some reason she had to do it by herself. She also said that it was important that a woman have “running away money” — not because she WAS preparing to run away, but so that she would never have to feel powerless about her life choices or beholden to anyone or trapped in her circumstances. She never did run away, by the way. My grandfather loved and cherished my grandmother as a wife and the mother of his children, but also his equal partner in building a life. He admired her independence and bragged that his wife was the smartest and most capable business person he knew. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the old days don’t weren’t always about relinquishing your independence, financial or otherwise.
At any rate, I’m certain that many women find a community in your blog and that’s what’s important. There are enough problems in the world and so much hatred against women in media, from men and from other women, that a place to be understood and to share common views is a better alternative. I think women supporting other women is always a good thing, and that’s what your blog does. Whether or not you are comfortable calling that “feminist”, it’s always a good thing anwyay. Women should be supporting each other, not tearing each other down– and as with all freedoms, we may not agree on everything, and I may not always like the way you say things, but I will fight for your right to be able to say them. Bets of luck and more power.
Thank you for writing in, and thank you for being respectful. I am not sure which month I wrote it in, but at some point last year I declared a truce with the feminists of the world because of posts like yours that actually showed me a different side of things that I hadn’t previously noticed. I no longer consider myself “anti-feminist.” I think in one way I am actually a very vocal feminist who is exercising her right to choose to live in a modern version of a traditional marriage. And you, my dear, are one of the ladies who are out there empowering all of us in a way that supports all women. Thank you for that.
Finally…a non-Stepfordized, legitimate retro-1950’s-spirited woman.
My question is: Is it ever too late to ‘go home’? I was a stay-at-home mom for nearly 15 years. Our children are 15 and soon-to-be-22 and I returned to the workforce (at 44) nearly two years ago. I won’t lie: making money is nice….but I hate NOT being there.
I hate not being there when my daughter comes home and wants help with her homework, or someone to talk to.
I hate not having a clean house and not making dinner every night.
I hate the lack of respect I feel for my husband now. It’s shameful.
I hate not being able to give back to my church, my family and my community…because I’m ‘too tired’ at the end of the work day. I was more energized cleaning and cooking and running errands than I am sitting behind a desk.
So here I am, at 46 years old and knowing my work contract might expire in 2 months. Part of me is scared but a good portion of me is screaming, “HALLELUJAH!” Now to help my family understand how I feel…especially hubby. Oh.
So…is it ever too late to go home? Guess we’ll have to see. Thank you for the uplifting and very real blog. You are so appreciated. 🙂
i do not think it is ever too late to do what our soul tells us to do.
Thank you. 🙂
I’m quite sure one’s spouse must be in full support. I would love to stay home but ,unfortunately, that will never happen. Best of luck to you!
Yes. That is true! Thankfully my husband agrees that the money I earn from my little home-based business combined with the money I save by being here (and avoiding conveniences) is enough to justify my ability to stay at home. I would be profoundly sad if he didn’t think that way.
I “happened upon” your blog whilst looking through recipes! Glad I did….thank you for your well-written and insightful blog. There are a few points, however, I’d like to see you address in the coming days. Firstly, I was raised in a traditional family dynamic as well. There were, as there always are, positives and negatives in any family. However, I also note that my mother and her contemporaries never felt the need to “justify” their lives. They were not made to feel “less than” for their choices to keep a home and raise a family. That is often not the case today.
Secondly, please remember that during the era to which you refer, almost all women were wearing corsets and/or girdles many at all times! No God-fearing woman would have thought about leaving her house without wearing said undergarments and hosiery! And I grew up in a deep South, tropical climate and remember being so very, very hot and uncomfortable but it was instilled in our little minds that stockings (and then pantyhose) were absolutely necessary. Corsets are enjoying a new popularity and just look at the beautiful results…the hourglass. However, today’s corsetry or waist-training is not as oppressive! Yay.
Also to be noted, I am increasingly aware of the impact which cortisol has upon women’s bodies. No matter what diet and lifestyle a woman adopts, her system will be fighting against her if the stress hormones are flying constantly! This is simply an epidemic…according to the CDC and confirmed by several doctors I know personally. We are overworked and overstressed. Women in other times worked very hard, yes, but they were not under the type of pressure we are. Added to that, they were not also expected to work outside of the home, juggle all the technology and be an independent woman. My mother did not have to stress over finances alone…she had a spouse who was her partner in this area. I do not have such a luxury nor do most of the women I know. We shoulder all of this alone. It is daunting.
Now add to that scenario the idea of reentering the dating scene later in life and in the age of Tinder! It’s not for the faint-of-heart. LOL!! However, I’m, aware that much of the current dating and relationship advice is moving directly towards YOUR perspective!! The idea of embracing our feminine energy is becoming a big topic of discussion.
Do you have any articles on the day to day routine or schedule you try to follow? I have a 21 month old and a baby due in June. I’m a stay at home mom, which I wanted. But I don’t enjoy cooking, and that is my responsibility. I don’t always make sure I look my best (ok I’ve slacked off A LOT in that area, but notice I do feel better when I put in the effort…it’s just the initial inertia I have to overcome). I stay on top of the laundry, even with cloth diapers. I don’t clean as much as I feel I should. The main obstacle to all these things is always, how do I get it done with babies around who will cry if I set them down or leave the room, or who will get into what I am trying to do, like clean, and who often wake up prematurely from their naps, requiring me to devote even more time to getting them to sleep. I’m tired in the afternoon and evening. How did the 1950s wife do it all, including being pregnant with little ones? I’m turning 37 so maybe that’s why my energy isn’t stellar. I’d like to get more done, without feeling like the daily grind is so…grinding at times. Thanks
Hello! We are bringing back our daily schedules for 2018!
Looking forward to seeing more updates, tips and current posts. So far, I like what I have been reading. I would like to also take the challenge of doing things the 1950s way of cleaning and especially managing a household more smoothly and lovingly.
I celebrate my 60th birthday this year…born in 1958 I have the most wonderful memories of an at-home-mom totally dedicated to our blended family of 9. What a richness she brought to our family! Although she did a few part time jobs here and there through the years after we were all in college, she always returned to the quiet be-there-for-you status that brought rock solid support to our worlds. The pressure to raise our standard of living higher and higher is continually there. The longing to just BE is very great as well. What angst! I appreciate your efforts and look forward to reading your thoughts. Thank you! Betsy in Oklahoma
I love that!