Women as Wives and Workers: Marking Fifty Years of The Feminine Mystique
Saturday 30th November 2013
Royal Holloway, University of London
2013 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Feminine Mystique’s publication. From the outset, Betty
Friedan’s text had an enormous influence on academic and popular audiences, selling millions and
shaping feminist discourse about the housewife throughout the Western world. Yet at the same
time, full-time housewifery was becoming both a less common experience and a cultural battlefield.
Since the 1950s, levels of employment amongst married women (notably white women) have risen
enormously. Women have increasingly been confronted with the ‘superwoman’ paradox, which
Friedan herself encapsulated: writing about ‘the zombie housewife’ and ‘the problem that has no
name’ whilst being a working wife and mother. Many other women likewise negotiated domesticity
and paid work, but their experiences were by no means uniform and were shaped by various other
factors including race, age, sexuality and socio-economic status.
This conference aims to draw these themes together by offering an opportunity to explore The
Feminine Mystique alongside discussions of women and employment. Areas of consideration may
include but are not limited to:
- Women’s paid employment
- The Feminine Mystique, its impact and critiques, for example with regards to race
- The international impact of The Feminine Mystique
- Domesticity and the figure of the housewife: experiences, rights, cultural portrayals
- Discourses of motherhood and fatherhood
- Evolving notions of family
- Gender and education
- Notions of ‘having it all’ and being ‘Superwoman’
- The National Organization for Women: its impact, legacy and critics
- The development of women’s organisations and networks since the 1960s
We invite papers that address these topics either broadly or specifically. While papers with a particular emphasis on mid-twentieth century America may be given priority, we also encourage scholars to present work with a comparative perspective (across time and/or space) or looking at other geographical areas. Panel submissions are also welcome. A special issue of History of Women in the Americas based on the conference papers is planned, subject to the usual peer review procedure.
‘Women as Wives and Workers: Marking Fifty Years of The Feminine Mystique’ is the sixth annual conference of the Society for the History of Women in the Americas (SHAW) and is being co-organized with The Bedford Centre for the History of Women at Royal Holloway University of London. The conference organisers are Helen Glew (University of Westminster), Jane Hamlett (RHUL), Sinead McEneaney (St. Mary’s University College) and Rachel Ritchie (Brunel University).
A 250-word abstract and a short biography should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 14th October 2013. Please use the same email address for any other enquiries about the event.