The little woman

Domestic containment gained adherents during the 1950s to establish what a proper democratic, capitalist American society was meant to look like during the Cold War. To combat the communist way of life, the true “American” way of life was domesticated around the country and centered around the female homemaker with a traditional nuclear family. Women staying homemakers asserted that they were subservient to men and that men would stay the providers while women could simply “play their role” in the home. Similar to how strong, hard-working men were the image of what a good American, anti-communist man was meant to be, an American woman was meant to be the traditional housewife who cooked, cleaned, took care of the children, and did not work. While men were demonized for showing any “feminine” characteristics as that would make them homosexual and consequently communist, women were not supposed to be “manly” or work a job, as then she would be striving to live the life of Soviet women. Communist women were women who worked outside the home, showed little to no true femininity, and were willing to abandon their husbands and children for their own personal gains. The U.S. wanted to go directly against this portrayal of women in their own homes to establish the anticommunist doctrine domestically.

These gendered beliefs were used against Muriel Draper, Jean Kerr, and Margaret Chase Smith. Muriel Draper came from a family of wealth but when her husband gambling and alcohol problems became intolerable she divorced him and got a job to support her children. Later she became more politically active and, “served as a chair of the women’s division of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship.” (11) Instead of being seen as trying to provide for her family, she was considered weak and a woman who abandoned the fulfilling life with a husband and children. Jean Kerr was the wife of Joe McCarthy who was heavily involved in the campaign of Butler by providing his staff with anti- Tydings material, writing campaign material, and getting funds from McCarthy’s office and people to support the campaign (18). She was seen as out-stepping her role as a woman, even if it meant fighting against communism. Margaret Chase Smith was a devoted Republican senator who regularly spoke out against communism, the Democratic administration, and even spoke out against President Kennedy for slowing down nuclear deterrence. Most notably she gave the “Declaration of Conscience” to the senate which called for stronger leadership in administration, more integrity within the legislation and without names called out politicians for trying to create a more divisive country while remaining unpunished (26). Following the speech politicians would not take her words seriously because she was a woman, told she couldn’t be a real senator and was too aggressive, and in journalism was undermined that she could not have written the speech because it used too many big words.

I think the article speaks a lot of truth about how women attempting to be anything besides a homemaker get ridiculed and diminished, even today. And even when women make strides by getting a high level position or accomplishment it gets diminished by saying it was not as good as how a man could have done it or they are not taken seriously at all. In a sense, even when the “glass ceiling” gets broken, another one seems to get built right away. 

One thought on “The little woman

  1. I like everything you wrote about the first two questions. I agree that women trying to fight for equality were and still are ridiculed and diminished today. I think what is abundantly prevalent in today’s society is an unconscious bias against women. If a man and a woman are applying for a job, others might unconsciously have a bias against the woman and her capabilities at performing the job. It’s hard for women not to have the “glass ceiling” in a building established by men that benefit from the ceiling being there. I hope there is a future where women aren’t discriminated against.


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