I. Affluence and Its Anxieties
The economy really sprouted during the 50s, and the invention of
the transistor exploded the electronics field, especially in computers,
helping such companies as International Business Machines (IBM) expand
Aerospace industries progressed, as the Boeing company made the
first passenger-jet airplane (adapted from the superbombers of the
Strategic Air Command), the 707.
In 1956, “white-collar” workers outnumbered “blue
collar” workers for the first time, meaning that the industrial
era was passing on.
As this occurred, labor unions peaked in 1954 then started a steady decline.
Women appeared more and more in the workplace, despite the
stereotypical role of women as housewives that was being portrayed on
TV shows such as “Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave It to
More than 40 million new jobs were created.
Women’s expansion into the workplace shocked some, but really
wasn’t surprising if one observed the trends in history, and now,
they were both housewives and workers.
Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique was a
best-seller and a classic of modern feminine protest literature.
She’s the godmother of the feminist movement.
II. Consumer Culture in the Fifties
The fifties saw the first Diner’s Club cards, the opening of
McDonald’s, the debut of Disneyland, and an explosion in the
number of television stations in the country.
Advertisers used television to sell products while
“televangelists” like Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, and
Fulton J. Sheen used TV to preach the gospel and encourage religion.
Sports shifted west, as the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to Los Angeles
and San Francisco, respectively, in 1958.
Elvis Presley, a white singer of the new “rock and
roll” who made girls swoon with his fleshy face, pointing lips,
and antic, sexually suggestive gyrations, that redefined popular music.
Elvis died from drugs in 1977, at age 42.
Traditionalists were shocked by Elvis’s shockingly open
sexuality, and Marilyn Monroe (in her Playboy magazine spread)
continued in the redefinition of the new sensuous sexuality.