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Pushing the Limits; American Women 1940-1961

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Americans living in the mid 20th century saw momentous change. A decade of severe economic depression in the 1930s was followed by the largest scale war the world had ever seen. In Pushing the Limits, Elaine Tyler May shows how women's lives in the United States reflected and helped to shape these world changes. During the war, women joined the military effort through the WACS (Women's Army Corps) and the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services). Production demands drew women into manufacturing ...
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Overview


Americans living in the mid 20th century saw momentous change. A decade of severe economic depression in the 1930s was followed by the largest scale war the world had ever seen. In Pushing the Limits, Elaine Tyler May shows how women's lives in the United States reflected and helped to shape these world changes. During the war, women joined the military effort through the WACS (Women's Army Corps) and the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services). Production demands drew women into manufacturing jobs and broadcast the famous image of Rosie the Riveter. After the war, women were encouraged to give up their jobs to the returning veterans and resume their tasks as wives and mothers.
We discover that women of all backgrounds pushed the limits of their circumstances, whether they were college educated homemakers working to elevate the job of housewife to a respected career, working class women struggling to preserve the gains of wartime, or African American women leading the struggle for civil rights. Popular culture of the 1950s--TV shows such as "Ozzie and Harriet," "Leave It To Beaver," and "Father Knows Best"--promoted the subservient wife in a traditional nuclear family and kept women as homemakers. At the same time, however, women such as Rosa Parks became household names as they challenged racial and gender discrimination. These women, May reveals, paved the way for the political, sexual, and social movements of the 1960s and the feminist gains that would follow.

Discusses the role of women during World War II and in the postwar years of both expanding and contracting opportunities for them, as many sought their rightful place as full American citizens.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"If Pushing the Limits is what new books for students are like, I'm going back to school!"--Linda K. Kerber, Professor of History, University of Iowa, and author of Women of the Republic

"During the 1950s and 1960s, mom and apple pie were upbeat images, but May does a fine job of chronicling the dark side of this phenomenon, including the mental and emotional price paid by those who didn't follow the rules."--Booklist

"Lively, fascinating, lucid, accessible, balanced--a fine resource that belongs in every library."--Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "This refreshingly different look at history, social trends, and pop culture lends itself beautifully to classroom discussionn, and will also be useful for reports."--School Library Journal (starred review)

Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Leading historical scholars tell the story of America as women experienced it. The eleven volume "Young Oxford History of Women in the United States" series focuses on dramatic incidents and personal detail of women from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds at home, at work and in pursuit of their dreams. Black-and-white photographs and reproductions of art enhance this excellent series. Each book covers one historical period. Volume 9 addresses American women's experiences in the 1940-1961 time period.
School Library Journal
Gr 9-12-May explores the times that produced feminists from the ``Rosie the Riveters'' of World War II to Betty Friedan, and the activists, housewives, artists, and others who came in between. Primary sources, including interviews and articles, bring the experiences of these women to life. May makes an effort to include many cultures; she briefly mentions the contributions of Menominee and Navajo women, and those of the Mexicana labor leader Luisa Moreno. The book also includes a fairly detailed account of the beginnings of the civil rights movement. Chapters on dating and reproduction contain information not usually found in history books. Discussions of family size, contraception and abortion, and extramarital affairs reveal much about the times. Black-and-white photos-including a nice mix of historical figures and scenes from families, neighborhoods, and factories-will capture readers' interest. This refreshingly different look at history, social trends, and pop culture lends itself beautifully to classroom discussion, and will also be useful for reports.-Rebecca O'Connell, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Elaine Tyler May is professor of American studies and history at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, Great Expectations: Marriage and Divorce in Post Victorian America, and Barren in the Promised Land: Childless Americans and the Pursuit of Happiness.

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