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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 5 - Feminine Mystique and the American Voter


The decades of the 1940s and 1950s conjure conflicting images of American women. The strong and independent Rosie the Riveter of the Second World War soon gave way to June Cleaver, the perfect suburban mother. Betty Friedan would later describe this aggressive reassertion of traditional gender roles as “the feminine mystique.” For women and politics, this era is usually cast – if discussed at all – as one of relative political quiescence, sandwiched between impassioned Progressive and suffrage activism and the second wave of the women’s movement. While the view that women were absent from politics in the immediate postwar period has been challenged on several grounds, our understanding of women as voters during this period remains limited and often characterized more by stereotypes than evidence.

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