Previously published in Examiner
the first part of a new series
We have reviewed the social mores of the 1950’s women. Though they were given the right to vote as late as 1940 in Quebec and Montreal yet they could serve on juries if they wanted to in 1947 in America. Socially, women in both Canadian and American society were still behind the times.
We have reviewed how women’s work was not valued because it was unpaid work and therefore not seen in the same fashion as outside work. We have also seen how the Rosie’s could work and do the same work as a man yet that reverted back to the notion that a woman’s place was in the home to serve her husband because that was her lot in life, once the servicemen came home. Furthermore, the 1950 sitcoms reinforced these ideas for the role of women in the house.
We will look at the role that first ladies had to shape and fashion a generation of women constituents.
Mamie Eisenhower and her work on women’s issues
Whereas Eleanor Roosevelt was a staunch supporter of women’s issues, Mamie Eisenhower was a complicated lady, not easy to figure out. She was very much for showing women as capable of doing all things yet, she did not appear to want women to change.
Mamie was a very capable first Lady taken her duties in stride and performing them well. Mamie was determined to follow her husband and make a good home for him, wherever he was stationed; she did this from the beginning of her marriage long before her husband ever reached the presidency.
In 1920, Mamie Eisenhower, as well as other army wives, established a free hospital for Panamanian women who were barred from Army hospitals due to their race. The Eisenhowers’ lost their first son to scarlet fever in 1921 and that troubled Mamie for many years afterward.
Mamie suffered from depression, especially when her husband Ike, was away for three years on military assignment (1942- 1945) as Supreme Commander and Army General as well as several other titles along the way. Through all of this she felt her husband, the man of the family, was the decision maker. When Ike returned from the war and was made commander and chief of NATO, Mamie established homes in New York City and the outskirts of Paris.
To be continued
Montreal’s Concordia University has a wonderful women’s studies program for anyone who is interested.