Books · Retro Housewife: A Salute to the Suburban Superhero

Retro Housewife Intro pt. 3

I split the introduction into 4 parts (each one page of the introduction. I think its necessary to read the introduction to really understand the contents of the book, and where it’s coming from.

This is Page 3 –

Ads encouraged the retro housewife to have a personal relationship with her appliances, which were often given miraculous qualities; the word “magic” was applied to everything from scrubbing pads to tomato sauce to hand lotion. Household products were given cute personifications like Borden’s LC the cow. The poetry of Sylvia Plath both described and mocked this trend with such lines as “When I am quiet at my cooking, I feel it looking” and ” the smile of iceboxes annihilates me. / search blue currents in the veins of my loved one! / I hear her great heart purr.”

That attitude became more strident and widespread after the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique – the book that blue housewives mind from the Hamptons to the boondocks by suggesting they could ask for more than secondary status. Amid the counter culture Revolution and the release of the birth control pill, women’s options are suddenly all over the map. Housewives were no longer positive role models, but door mats at worst, martyrs at best.

But to the restaurant housewife, the home was less a spick-n-span prison cell that an ongoing project that provided her with a deep sense of purpose and identity. Her castle may have been a one – story Rambler, but in a time when marriage and babies were considered the pinnacle of every woman’s personal success, it still made her feel like a queen. She didn’t consider herself a robotic Stepford Wife but a crucial cog in the wheel of American prosperity.

Television and the movies – which were also experiencing bear golden ages – influence the tenor of the times in a more sleeping, universal way then they do today. Everyone loves Lucy and Ethel, whose lives, for all their adventures stomping grapes and messing up candy assembly lines, we’re still focused on home and family. As for titillation, Marilyn Monroe’s dress blowing spent over the great in The Seven Year Itch and the surf pounding make out session between Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity we’re just about as risky as the modest house wife could handle.

The deeply etched gender roles that gave structure and order to the running of the household also governed the retro housewife’s appearance. By today’s standards, the style dilemma seem insurmountable: dress modestly, yet also like a vixen able to erase all of hubby’s work day goes with one G-rated come hither greeting at the door. Look like an all-American mother and all American bombshell – half June Cleaver, half Maryland.

Tillotson, Kristin. “Pg. 3.” Retro Housewife: A Salute to the Suburban Superwoman. Portland: Collectors, 2004. 1. Print.



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