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