A Fight for an Education
A FIGHT FOR AN EDUCATION:
1950s Role of a Woman Vs. Today
By Emmy Torres
The Fight for An Education
Why should I be limited to pursue a dream simply because of the color of my skin, or because of my race, or even my gender? Sadly, these were the questions many secretly asked themselves in the 1950s. The role of the woman in the household, let alone, in the professional and educational world was not something common. As a matter of fact, society itself didn’t even let you barely imagine it. The image of the American woman was very standard and for those who chose to step out of those boundaries were considered an outcast. However, there were many women that fought for equality for women. They didn’t see themselves less capable than a man to do the job or to get an education. And although they found many obstacles along the way, they did all it took to leave a legacy and open the doors for many women to come.
As Dobson described in her book Portraits of the Lady, the types of the American girl divided itself into three primary sub classifications: The Beautiful Charmer; the New England Woman, and the Outdoor Girl. Once a woman reached the age of marriage, she was expected to assume her responsibility of being the ideal housewife, mother, and caretaker. All while the man goes out into the workforce and fulfill his responsibility to provide for his family and give them the ideal “American Dream” lifestyle and at the end it was expected to be a happily ever after ending. However, it wasn’t always like that. There were many frustrations that were silenced due to society’s supposed landscape of life that had to be followed. Men cheated while out in the work force, as women suffered the sickness called “Housewife Syndrome.” Life wasn’t as happy as portrayed all the time. But there were many that had to simply take it all in and life frustrated lives due to the constant expectations and competitions that this lifestyle brought about amongst each other. Although when the men were out fighting battles in World War Two the women had to go out and be the bread makers of the family, giving them the taste of being independent, this was a short-lived experience once all the soldiers returned from war. They came back ready to get married, have children, provide the life they never even imagined to have to their families. And although this may have sounded fantastic, it took the women back the few steps they had progressed by implying they had to have this perfect go-lucky image that was advertised in all the media, magazines, and newsletters.
In this essay, I will take you on a short trip down memory lane. I will discuss how the role of the woman has evolved throughout the last few decades. How the woman’s role began as a delicate passive sweetheart that expected nothing for being the image of the family, to the hardworking professionals that women have become today. Although these efforts have not happened over night, the role of the woman has come a long way. And all thanks to those women that decided that the right thing to do was not stay quiet. They decided to be vocal about their rights and what they felt they can bring to the table besides a home cooked meal.
Image (1A) Photograph caption dated March 26, 1955 reads “Three Valley housewives, winners of elimination baking contest, will compete Friday in finals for Mrs. San Fernando Valley title which may lead up to Mrs. America honors.
Caption for image (1A) the All-American housewife had one major responsibility; the family role. Regardless of the amount of tasks the women had to in the household, she was always considered under the husband’s wing. There was not much that she would be able to do out of the household do to the landscape of the residential living. The suburbs were simply villages of residential communities. Baking was one of the main dishes they learned how to master not only for their children, but also to be a part of the community as events like the one of the image. This was their type of involvement.
Image (2a) Troops of the Fortieth Military Police Company of the National Guard shared embraces with wives and sweethearts in last moments before four trains took the men to Camp Cooke on September 6, 1950. Mrs. Barbara Sumner kisses her husband, Corporal Leslie Sumner, goodbye under the gun of a tank at the National Guard Armory. They live in Inglewood at 304 East Plymouth Blvd.
Caption for Image (2a) This was an example of a moment of anxiety not only for the husband setting off for war or duty, but also for the wife. Now she is to not only be the caretaker but also the bread-maker while her husband is away, hoping he would return alive.
Image (3a) Photograph caption dated August 14, 1958 reads, “Serving on the luncheon committee for Aug. 26 fashion gathering of American Bar Association at Beverly Hilton Hotel are these members of Valley Lawyers’ Wives.
Caption for image (3a) The appealing image that all women should have in the 1950s. It didn’t matter what was going on in their daily life, they were the wives of lawyers and they had to portray an image that had to be impeccable.
Image (4a) Photograph caption dated February 19, 1947 reads, “Members of the organizing committee of the San Fernando Valley branch auxiliary of the Los Angeles County Medical association auxiliary shown discussing the program of the newly formed group.
Caption for image (4a) Yet another level of superiority that a woman can achieve. Being a doctor’s wife is yet a higher tier in life’s accomplishment. They would be involved in certain committees and gain leadership roles in this aspect, however, always known as the doctor’s wife.
Image (5a)  Photograph caption dated August 26, 1959 reads, “Valley Lawyers’ Wives spend ‘leisure time’ as volunteer office staff at Legal Aid offices to help association function on limited budget.
Caption for image (5a) Although they were volunteers, this image shows how women began to integrate themselves in the workforce. They usually worked secretarial roles to the lawyers or administrators of the office.
Image (6a)  Front covers of manuals produced by Women Empowering Women regarding information on trades such as carpentry, basic home repair plumbing, pipework, and electrical work.
Caption for image (6a) These were one of the many resources that began to get publish to teach women how to be more independent in the household. There was much anxiety in the women to feel empowered. And these were forms that they felt they were gaining independence.
Image (7a)  Interior view of a factory shows five women sewing.
Caption for image (7a) These were the type of jobs that began to open for women. They could perform “women’s” jobs. During many times, there was anxiety amongst women on the fact that they needed to make sure their production was to the expectations or they would be let go of the job.
Image (8a)  A copy of a survey and interview questions used as part of a service learning project created by California State University, Long Beach Faculty Development Center, and W.I.N.T.E.R.’s acting Director Lynn Shaw regarding women in non-traditional work environments.
Caption for image (8a) Once women began to live unforeseen situations through the decades, they began to see they had to get their education. Although they were not envisioned to step in these roles they had to for one reason or the other. Whether it being for interest or lack of options to provide for their families. Leading them to have to step into non-traditional roles of work and education.
Image (9a) Emmy Torres and SGA of Valencia College Osceola Campus visiting the Orange County Courthouse on a Legislative Education day.
Caption for image (9a) This image shows how the evolution of the rights for women in the world of education has progressed through time. A woman can no enroll in college whether she is traditional, non-traditional, married, divorced, single. And gain the same education and experiences that one of a male.
Image (10a) Emmy Torres along with Elected officials from Osceola County, Kathleen Plinske, President of Valencia College Osceola Campus at the groundbreaking for the Poinciana Campus, in Poinciana, FL.
Caption for image (10a) this image demonstrates the opportunities that have been granted to strong willed women to fill rolls that were only permitted to men decades ago. On the far left is the President of Valencia College Osceola, Lake Nona, and Poinciana Campus. A woman that has fought hard and long to help those of the Hispanic community obtain a great education.
Image (11a) Emmy Torres along with 2016-2017 Valencia College SGA and Student Development, receiving award on being the pioneer for the 1st Hispanic Heritage Festival to Promote Education.
Caption for image (11a) This image represents that we still have much more work to do to raise awareness and fight for the right to get a legitimate education. Some may think that due to the role of being a wife, mother, and being at a non-traditional age for college that it is not possible to return and pursue a dream. This award was given to me this summer of 2016 for being the first to initiate and host the 1st Hispanic Heritage Festival to Promote Education on the Osceola Campus at Valencia College. I went out throughout the Osceola and Orange County community and single handily raised money for 7 scholarships for international students that didn’t have the access to the funds the other students had access to.
Image (12a) Image of my son’s graduation day. The day he inspired me to go back to college. Along with the day of my graduation from Valencia College as 2016 Distinguished Graduate with honors.
Caption for image (12a) These are images that demonstrate that the fight for women’s rights and education and that was done by many such as Betty Friedan were not lost causes. Because I made it. Having a family and breaking the image and role of a traditional mother, juggling motherhood, being a wife, handling a household, and a full-time student wasn’t easy. However, it is possible. I along with many other women have could begin to break the trend that Elina Haavio-Mannila stated in her journal, Sex Differentiation in Role Expectations and Perform, on how the educational level of women is lower than that of men.
In conclusion, education should not be a limited resource to anyone. Whether the individual is black or white, male or female, rich or poor everyone should have the equal access to the resources available to get a good education. And although, no matter how hard we try to steer away from the “All American” image of what a woman should be, we must face reality that the role goes further back than just an image and unfortunately there will always be certain responsibilities that only a female can claim as hers. And as Halberstam states in his book The Fifties, “Do you approve of a married woman earning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supporting her?” Why should we continue to allow this stereotypical image roam in our heads and not allow the woman to liberate herself and be as successful as any other person. This is the reason many women fought hard and long to be able to bring forward the equality in roles, wages, education, and even style of life. Looking back in history from the 1950s until now, we can see that we have come very far, however, America still have a long way to go. Women must continue to step up and be vocal about their passions, dreams, and rights to live a life as they choose as well. Sharing their success stories with others and spread awareness to be able to show that women are capable to serve in the same role as any man would. The ability to be a great leader and server to the community is not something that is born with due to your gender but is learned due to your motivation and determination.
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