Friday, June 10, 2011

That actually makes a lot of sense...

I just finished reading a book called The Girls Who Went Away, about teens and young women who gave up their babies for adoption, often under parental and social coercion, in the 50's and 60's--i.e. when the culture was starting to become more permissive WRT premarital sex, but before legalized abortion or readily available birth control. No personal connection for me and nothing I'm researching for a future manuscript; it just looked interesting.

One issue the author mentioned in passing was that in the 50's and 60's part of the tremendous pressure to conform came about because so many of those stereotypical 50's middle class families were newly raised in status. According to the statistics she cites, maybe 30% of Americans were middle class in the 20's and 30's, but the postwar economic boom and the GI Bill increased that percentage to 60 or 70%. (I'm pulling the numbers from memory.) So the parents of those girls who were getting pregnant were often the first generation of their families to have a college or even a high school education, to own a home and a measure of financial security, and so on. Therefore they were very anxious about losing their status or about not acting like a proper moral, middle-class family ought to act. Hence what by current standards was a conformist, repressive culture. Which, come to think of it, would be equally true of the Victorian era in America and Britain. New prosperity is a good thing, but it carries a certain amount of baggage with it.

Interesting, huh?

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