Janice's Reviews > The Way We Never Were: American Families & the Nostalgia Trap

The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz
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's review
Jul 07, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

This is an interesting book even though it's quite old now, 1992...hard to believe it's 20 years old. I'll just quote a couple of paragraphs. "The 1950's family was a new invention and a historical fluke based on a unique and temporary conjuncture of economical, social and political factors. During WWII, Americans had saved at a rate more than three times higher than in the decades before or since. Their buying power was further enhanced by our extrodinary competitive advantage at the end of the war, when every other industrial power was devastated by the war. During the 1950's real wages increased by more than they had in the entire previous half-century.

After the war women were expelled from thier jobs or forced to do the same job at a lower pay and they were encouraged to stay home and raise families. A study of hospitalized "schizophrenic" women in the San Francisco area were sometimes given electris shock treatments to force women to accept their domestic roles and their husbands dictates; and failure to want a baby signified dangerous emotional disturbances.

Women could not have credit cards in their own name, (nor could I in the 60's, and that irritated me then!)Men were also pressured, for the lack of a suitable wife could mean loss of a job or a promotion. Battered women were regarded as masochist's who provoked their hubands into beating them. Tranquilizers were developed in the 50's in response to a need that physicaians explicitly saw in females that was non-existant in 1955, and reached 462,000 pounds in 1958 and 1.15 billion pounds in 1959!

There's far more data in the book, hopefully this will wet your appitite to investigate further.
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