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Did the advent of television and its growing popularity in the 1950s enhance or restrict the overall status of women in post-war America?
In their Introduction to the “Television’s Prescriptions for Women” visual sources section of chapter 10 in our textbook Through Women’s Eyes, authors Ellen Carol DuBois and Lynn Dumenil write: “Historians who study 1950s television delve more deeply into the medium and its message and, as with any other historical source, examine both the televised images and the assumptions of the people who created programming and advertising.” (TWE 635)
Based on your reading of chapter 10’s visual sources section entitled “Television’s Prescriptions for Women” (TWE pp. 635-650), our goal with this assignment is to address the following question: Did the advent of television and its growing popularity in the 1950s enhance or restrict the overall status of women in post-war America?
Our lecture for this week, along with chapter 10 of TWE, looks at American women’s lives in the period of 1945-1965. During this post-war era American women grappled with the fundamental challenges of the age, including consumerism, civil rights, and the Cold War. In cultural terms, millions of American families settled in to the new pastime of watching television, a fact that led advertisers to tout TV as a pro-family activity in an age when many feared the threat of communism was undermining traditional American institutions such as the family. Looking at the images in chapter 10’s visual sources section on television’s prescriptions for women, it is easy to see that women played a prominent role in both the advertising & programming brought by television, and yet the question remains: Did the advent of television and its growing popularity in the 1950s enhance or restrict the overall status of women in post-war America?
In addressing this prompt and the sources presented by the authors, consider the following points in writing your post:
• To whom was television marketed? What did the advertisements claim TV would accomplish? What part did women supposedly play in this scheme?
• Did television reinforce the idea of a “proper sphere” for women, and if so, did that ideal enhance or restrict women’s overall status in American society?
• How did television deal with issues of race and ethnicity generally, and how were women of color depicted? Was the overall effect to promote equality?
• Critics complained that TV promoted cultural conformity, but do you find any evidence that TV was sometimes subversive of the establishment and mainstream cultural values?
• provide historical context and detailed information for your post.
Do not cite other sources beyond our TWE textbook.
Writing a strong discussion board post is analagous to a home run. Consider the following “four bases”:
1st base, clarify the historical context using information from weekly lectures and textbook reading. What was going on at that time that helps us understand these documents?
2nd base, choose a few “golden lines” from the documents, i.e. excerpt a few exact quotes to feature as evidence/illustrations in support of your analysis. Remember, quotes do not speak for themselves. The point here is not to strip mine your sources to make it look like your post is full of quoted material. Each quote you use should be fairly brief and in support of a specific point you are making (see below) with plenty of descriptive support from you.
3rd base, analysis. Students are often unsure what ‘analysis’ means. It’s not the same as summarizing, i.e. repeating what was said in your own words. Instead, think of analysis as making the “invisible visible.” When you analyze a document you are teasing the historical meaning from the words you are reading, looking for clues, and making informed judgements, informed interpretations of what they mean.
4 th base. make it clean. Before submitting, make sure your post has clean and clear sentences. It should have no misspelled words or fractured grammar.
Minimum 350 words. Good historical analysis requires the identification of specific contexts — the who, what, where, and when of things. Make sure to identify which women, where, or when. identify women by race, class, ethnicity, geography, and time period. Any essay that refers generically to “women” without identifying proper historical context (4 W’s) or race/class/ethnicity will receive much lower scores. Do not simply say “Indian women,” unless what you are saying is true of ALL such women everywhere and for all periods. Otherwise, say Iroquois women of the fifteenth century, or Pueblo women of the American southwest, or Algonquian women in the 1600s, etc. The same goes for “white women” and “black women” — be sure to identify WHICH white or black women by including time period, geographical information, or other pertinent identifying features.