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America in the 1950 s Society & Culture America in the 1950 s Society & Culture

Post-War Prosperity • Stark departure from Depression & War • People want to enjoy Post-War Prosperity • Stark departure from Depression & War • People want to enjoy the good life. • Main-Stream Cultural Image of Good life: – Owning a House w/ a lawn and a white picket fence. – Married w/ 2. 5 -kids. – Women are supposed to be homemakers – (Retreat from “Rosie the Riveter” & return to the Cult of Domesticity).

Economic Boom • 1945 -1970 s = Time of greatest economic prosperity in the Economic Boom • 1945 -1970 s = Time of greatest economic prosperity in the nation’s history • Peaked in the 1960 s. • Americans had the most wealth of any people in the history of the world.

GI Bill • Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. • $ for returning vets. To get vocational GI Bill • Servicemen’s Readjustment Act. • $ for returning vets. To get vocational training, go to college, buy homes, etc. • Helps send more Americans to college than ever before. • Helps more Americans own homes than ever before.

A Time of Conformity • Many historians tend to stress the amount of conformity A Time of Conformity • Many historians tend to stress the amount of conformity that existed in the 1950 s. • Many people sought to be like the main stream cultural ideal. • This leads to an emphasis on materialism “Keeping up with the Joneses” = If your neighbors own something, you need to have it too.

Moving to the Suburbs • New prosperity means that more people can afford to Moving to the Suburbs • New prosperity means that more people can afford to own homes. • Many whites begin moving out of the city to the suburbs—housing communities outside of cities. • Levittowns (suburb communities of pre-made homes) are the epitome of this new suburban life.

TV • 1950 s are when TV’s burst on to the scene. • Households TV • 1950 s are when TV’s burst on to the scene. • Households that own TVs – 1950 = 3. 9% 1960 = 86. 7% Instrumental in spreading main-stream cultural ideals.

Consumer Culture • Prosperity of the 1950 s and 1960 s is consumer driven Consumer Culture • Prosperity of the 1950 s and 1960 s is consumer driven (rather than investment driven). • Increased prosperity (& more goods available) led new levels of middle-class mass consumption. • TV helps to fuel this. • Mickey Mouse Club—kids bought MMC merchandise. • Modern kitchens and appliances.

Increased Highways • 1950 s saw unprecedented building of highways. • Federal Highway Act Increased Highways • 1950 s saw unprecedented building of highways. • Federal Highway Act of 1956 = $25 -millon for new highways. • More people had cars • More people lived in suburbs.

The H-Bomb • Hydrogen Bomb (The “Super”) • Edward Teller • 1952 The H-Bomb • Hydrogen Bomb (The “Super”) • Edward Teller • 1952

Bomb Shelters • Fear of Nuclear War during the Cold War led many Americans Bomb Shelters • Fear of Nuclear War during the Cold War led many Americans to build Bomb Shelters.

Baby Boom • 1945 -1962 • Increased Prosperity • More people can afford to Baby Boom • 1945 -1962 • Increased Prosperity • More people can afford to have kids.

Dr. Benjamin Spock • Wrote influential book on child care: Baby and Child Care. Dr. Benjamin Spock • Wrote influential book on child care: Baby and Child Care. • Said that a woman’s chief responsibility is to be a mother. • Must put the child’s needs before her own. • Lots of pressure on women.

Playboy Magazine • Hugh Hefner--1953 Playboy Magazine • Hugh Hefner--1953

Review • What was the “GI Bill”? • What were the most famous suburban Review • What was the “GI Bill”? • What were the most famous suburban developments called? • Who wrote the best-selling book on child rearing and what did it say good mothers should do? • What was the U. S. population explosion that occurred after WWII and lasted into the 1960 s called?

Alienation • Despite many Americans buying-in to main stream cultural ideals of the 1950 Alienation • Despite many Americans buying-in to main stream cultural ideals of the 1950 s, many felt alienated. • People feel unfulfilled by emphasis on conformity and material possessions. – Women & Many Minorities – Some Youths – Beats Theme of alienation and disillusionment is present in much of the art of the 1950 s (literature, poetry, paintings, plays, etc. )

Women • While society held that women should be homemakers, the reality was that Women • While society held that women should be homemakers, the reality was that more women were entering the workforce than ever before. • Mainly clerical and service jobs. • Many people needed 2 -income households to buy the material goods they felt that they should have.

 • Many women who remained at home felt stifled by their roles. • • Many women who remained at home felt stifled by their roles. • The sale of tranquilizers skyrocketed (“Mother’s Little Helper”). • Betty Freidan in the Feminine Mystique maintained that the lack of fulfillment experienced by many housewives was the genesis of he women’s movement in the 1960 s.

 • Friedan became a major figure in the burgeoning feminist movement. • Friedan became a major figure in the burgeoning feminist movement.

Women in the Workforce • While popular culture portrayed a women’s role as a Women in the Workforce • While popular culture portrayed a women’s role as a homemaker, the 1950 s saw a great increase in the number of women entering the workplace. • More 2 -income families than ever before due to pressures of consumer culture. • Conversely, Dr. Benjamin Spock, Baby and Child Care held that a mother should be at home giving her full attention to her children. • This contrast between social norms and economic realities caused tension.

More Review • Who was the most prominent figure o the 2 nd Red More Review • Who was the most prominent figure o the 2 nd Red Scare? • A = Senator Joseph Mc. Carthy • What was the name of the best selling book about the discontent sufferd by many middle-class house wives during the 1950 s that helped give rise to modern feminism? • A = The Feminine Mystique • Who wrote the above mentioned book? • A = Betty Friedan • What was the name of the authors and poets who wrote in a modernist style and rejected the social norms of the 1950 s? • A = The Beats

Youth Culture • Many youth sought to emulate the stereotypes of the main stream. Youth Culture • Many youth sought to emulate the stereotypes of the main stream. • They wore poodle skirts and sweaters. • Hung out at the soda shop, etc.

Youth Rebellion • Other youths, however, rebelled against the cultural norms of the time. Youth Rebellion • Other youths, however, rebelled against the cultural norms of the time. • The most popular images of youth rebellion were the leather jacketed greaser and the brooding young man.

The Beats • Poets and Writers who rejected contemporary American society. • Alan Ginsburg— The Beats • Poets and Writers who rejected contemporary American society. • Alan Ginsburg— “Howl. ” • Jack Kerouac– On The Road • William Burroughs—Naked Lunch

Ginsburg and Kerouac Ginsburg and Kerouac

Beatniks Beatniks

Main Stream Lit. /Theatre • J. D. Salinger– Catcher in the Rye. • John Main Stream Lit. /Theatre • J. D. Salinger– Catcher in the Rye. • John Updike – Rabbit, Run. • Grace Metalious – Peyton Place • Arthur Miller – Death of a Salesman • All deal with themes of alienation.

Film • Marlon Brando and James Dean are the actors most emblematic of the Film • Marlon Brando and James Dean are the actors most emblematic of the Youth Rebellion. • Marilyn Monroe is at her height. • Doris Day is the archetype of the mainstream persona.

Music • With advent of TV, radio begins to rely more on music. • Music • With advent of TV, radio begins to rely more on music. • Term “Disc Jockey” conceived. • Rock and Roll is born. • Is an amalgamation of styles—mainly blues and country. • White performers like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis rise to prominence by emulating the style of black musicians. • Elvis is the biggest star, he is known as “The King. ” • Other big-names are: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens. • Embraced mainly by teens and young adults so is thus form of youth rebellion.

Art in the 50 s • Abstract Expressionism is the dominant style of painting. Art in the 50 s • Abstract Expressionism is the dominant style of painting. • Centered in NYC. • Main Artists are: Jackson Pollock, Alan Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Willem De. Kooning. • Edward Hopper is more a traditionalist. His paintings show isolated, anonymous individuals.

Jackson Pollock Jackson Pollock

Edward Hopper Edward Hopper

Mark Rothko • Color Field Mark Rothko • Color Field

Post War Inventions and Breakthroughs • Salk Vaccine— 1954, Prevents Polio. • DDT—Chemical Pesticide Post War Inventions and Breakthroughs • Salk Vaccine— 1954, Prevents Polio. • DDT—Chemical Pesticide that protected crops from pests and prevented diseases caused by insects such as Typhus and malaria. Only later was it found to be toxic to humans and animals. • UNIVAC—Universal Automatic Computer. Developed by Remington Rand Company.

Fast Food • More cars and highways lead to Fast Food Restaurants. • Mc. Fast Food • More cars and highways lead to Fast Food Restaurants. • Mc. Donald’s is the leading “franchise” restaurant.

1950 s: Good Times for Everybody? • The economic boom applied mainly to middle-class 1950 s: Good Times for Everybody? • The economic boom applied mainly to middle-class whites. • African Americans and Latinos generally did not share in the good times.

 • The 1950 s have often been described as a time of social • The 1950 s have often been described as a time of social and cultural conformity. To what degree is this statement true?