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Women in the 1950s

 

The image of American women in the 1950s was heavily shaped by popular culture: the ideal suburban housewife who cared for the home and children appeared frequently in women’s magazines, in the movies and on television. It is true that the women who entered the workforce during World War II did, for the most part, return to home and family in the following years, but during the 1950s the trend began to turn. Women began returning to the workplace and more and more women were becoming involved in state, local and Federal government service.

During his Presidential campaign, General Eisenhower was asked by Vivien Kellems of Stonington, Connecticut if, were he elected as President, he planned on appointing women to serve on his Cabinet. In his reply he said, "You may be assured that if it should be my destiny to serve as Chief Executive, I would utilize the contributions of outstanding women to the greatest extent possible." As President, Eisenhower appointed women to a number of prominent posts, including Oveta Culp Hobby (Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare), Bertha S. Adkins (Under-Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare), Clare Boothe Luce (U.S. Ambassador to Italy), Katherine Howard (Deputy Civil Defense Administrator) and others.

Vivien Kellems to President Eisenhower regarding Cabinet positions for women, and the President's reply, August 8 and 16, 1952 [DDE's Records as President, Official File, Box 852, OF158 Women; NAID #12005202]

Mrs. J. Ramsay Harris to James Murphy re a program directed at women to be used following the President's State of the Union message, January 29, 1954 [DDE's Records as President, Official File, Box 852, OF158 Women; NAID #12005034]

James Murphy to Clifford Roberts re consideration of a direct appeal to women by the President, February 4, 1954 [DDE's Records as President, Official File, Box 852, OF158 Women; NAID #12005064]

Report on Womanpower Conference, January 27, 1956 (33 pages) [Katherine G. Howard Papers, Box 17, Womanpower Conference; NAID #12005075]

Transcript (28 pages) of the CBS broadcast, "The Women Ask the President," and a list of program participants, October 24, 1956 [DDE's Papers as President, Speech Series, Box 18, Women Ask the President 10/24/56; NAID #12005205 and 12005200]

"On Being a Woman," speech by Katherine G. Howard, U.S. Delegate to the NATO Civil Defense Committee, February 20, 1957 [Katherine G. Howard Papers, Box 14, Christ Church Cathedral; NAID #12005077]

Information Sheet by the White House Conference on Children and Youth on the effects on children and youth of the employment of the mother outside the home [Records of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, Box 120, Workgroups 29-30; NAID #12005080]

List of Top Women Appointments in the Eisenhower Administration, 1959 (27 pages) [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005133]

List of Women in the U.S. Congress, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005137]

List of Women in the Federal Service, 1959 (27 pages) [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005138]

List of Women in the Judicial Service, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005140]

List of Women in the Foreign Service, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005139]

List of Women in State Appointive Positions, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12005141]

List of Women in State Elective Positions, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12009329]

List of Women in County and Municipal Service, 1959 [Bertha S. Adkins Papers, Box 20, Women in the Public Service 1959; NAID #12009331]

For additional information please see:

Women in 1950s Politics Subject Guide

Women's Studies Subject Guide