Advertisement featuring a housewife in apron standing in a formica kitchen, c 1950s. EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica ImageQuest.Americans in the 1950s enjoyed an unprecedented level of national prosperity. The privation of the Depression and the self-denial of the war years had primed Americans to see consumerism as the embodiment of economic and personal freedoms.
This activity addresses the following outcomes:
Analyze the emphasis on consumerism and conformity in the 1950s and its effect on society (CO#1, CO#4, CO#5/Gen. Ed. Outcome 4.2)
Examine the limitations of the 1950s prosperity for women and minorities (CO#1, CO#4, CO#5/Gen. Ed. Outcome 4.2)
Before you participate in this discussion, be sure to read the Module Notes, Chapter 26: â€œThe Affluent Societyâ€ in The American Yawp and watch the following videos: Our Changing Family Life, A Word to the Wives, and Housewife Prepares a Family Breakfast During 1950s.
When these films were made they had specific purposes. But even today we can watch them and learn much about the 1950s. Look closely at the people, the way they portray social interactions, what they wear, and the objects they use.
Using the videos and other materials above as evidence, consider the following in a post of at least 250 words:
Why do you think the films were originally made?
What can they tell us about gender roles and the emphasis on consumerism in the 1950s?
Who might have been left out of the middle-class consumer-oriented lifestyle portrayed in the films? Why?
How did the early Cold War affect Americansâ€™ perceptions of their countryâ€™s place in the world? How did this differ from the USâ€™s role in the world during the 1930s and 1940s?
Do you think the US response to the Soviet Union and the hunt for internal communist subversives were based upon real threats, or the product of unnecessary paranoia?