Creating an Ideal: Companionate Marriage & the Reality of 1950s
I. The early 20th-century: social forces that helped create an ideal of love-based, companionate marriage
◦ A family with father the bread winner and mother the stay-at-home worker was seen as normal.
Married couples must have babies and marital sexual activity is the primary goal.
A. Social changes and resulting concerns about preserving marriage and “the family”
1) Anxiety about the “new day” for women, women‟s rights and images of gender equality
▫ Family was threatened by the social changes. Changing status of women- control of property,
working with income and the „new day‟ (women equal to men)
▫ Evidence of the anxiety
i. Home economics was developed
ii. Organizations only foe men e.g. boy scout
iii. Group of identified gay men- people became self-identified as gay
2) A fear of weakening masculinity, given men‟s increased employment in white-collar jobs.
▫ Men were used to do manual jobs where these jobs identified them as manly and manual
3) Worries about “the family,” given declining birth rates (for white middle-class women) and rising
▫ The flow of immigrants into Canada and US. People were afraid of losing the white supremacy
B. The development of mass-consumer culture: the glorification of heterosexual romance and the promise
of happiness e.g. advertising
C. The gradual achievement of the “family wage”
◦ In the 1930s (Depression) gender roles turned upside down and men were depressed because female
were more easy to be employed and they can make money and feed the children
- In the past, family in Canada needed second income, women to work, because men‟s incomes were
unable to support the whole family. In the50s, as income increases, women were able to stay home and
children were able to go to school. At that period of time nearly 95%-99% people get married. Half
women get married when they were 19-20, men: early 20s. People felt secure economically and they
have the pressure to get marry and have children. Being married is a sign of normality and responsibility
- The Kinsey reports and the sexual climate: reaction to the female volume was significantly more
negative and tended to focus on the morality of the findings and on the moral basis of the project itself.
Kinsey had identified certain social factors as having an influence on sexual behaviour. His findings
brought sex into public discussions where homosexual intercourse was just one of the many possible
II. Breadwinner/Homemaker Families of the 1950s:
A. An unusual era: achievement of a “family wage,” a growing economy and government subsidies to
1) A time of insecurity, given the Cold War. The state‟s cultivation of that insecurity to regulate the
population – with pressures to conform.
▫ Internal thread: comes from gay men and the bomb- nuclear weapon. The only way to address
the fear is to get married and focus inward of their family
2) A generation‟s experience of hard times and insecurity. People‟s turn toward private family life (a
cocoon), and the enjoyment of greater material comfort (in the suburbs), and consumerism. People
married at that time were born in depression and were teens during the WWII. They grew up in
tough time and want stable life
3) The reversal of long-term demographic trends- birth rate increases since their husbands were at the
war and waiting to have children. High marriage and low divorce rate. Women‟s education decreases
because their goal in their life is to get marry
◦ Not everyone live in this ideal situation as black people were not accepted into most jobs, their wives
have to work
Creating an ideal: companionate marriage & the reality of 1950s. The early 20th-century: social forces that helped create an ideal of love-based, companionate marriage: a family with father the bread winner and mother the stay-at-home worker was seen as normal. Married couples must have babies and marital sexual activity is the primary goal: social changes and resulting concerns about preserving marriage and the family , anxiety about the new day for women, women s rights and images of gender equality. Family was threatened by the social changes. Changing status of women- control of property, working with income and the new day (women equal to men) Evidence of the anxiety: home economics was developed, organizations only foe men e. g. boy scout, group of identified gay men- people became self-identified as gay, a fear of weakening masculinity, given men s increased employment in white-collar jobs.