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The feminine mystake: Betty Friedan and the dogma of domesticity in 1950s America

Isaacs, Rebecca Frances (2011)
M.Phil. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis discusses the experience had by women who attended college in America in the 1950s alongside the history of the period that was presented by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (1963). Friedan’s version of events has since become the dominant history of the period, but in this thesis I have attempted to redress this mistake. The thesis first discusses how The Feminine Mystique has been treated both by historians and popular culture since its publication, and how this has affected the way the period and the women who lived through it are perceived today. The first chapter focuses on Friedan’s treatment of women’s magazines from the period, and argues that both the magazines she discussed, and the others that were available, did not present as monotone a representation of the female college student as Friedan suggested in The Feminine Mystique. The final two chapters discuss the actual experience had by students in attendance at Smith College, Friedan’s alma mater, at the end of the 1950s; the high academic standard that students were required to reach, the influence the Cold War had on women’s education, the job opportunities which were available to female students and the paths they chose to follow after graduation.

Type of Work:M.Phil. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Laville, Helen
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of American and Canadian Studies
Subjects:E11 America (General)
HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:2910
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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