Women and Gender Seminar: Anna Flaming, University of Iowa, and Lauren Gutterman, New York University

Center for American History and Culture Programs
Women and Gender Seminar
Friday, March 30, 2012

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Room 101

Reimagining the Postwar Wife

“Domesticity and Feminism in the Displaced Homemaker Movement in the late 20th Century
Anna Flaming, University of Iowa

The displaced homemaker movement that emerged in the mid-1970s articulated the frustrations of older housewives who followed their generation’s call to marriage and domesticity only to be displaced by divorce or widowhood.  Though some housewives regarded the women’s movement with distrust or even distaste, many displaced homemaker activists defined both themselves and their work as feminist.  My research examines how the movement simultaneously used and subverted gendered tropes to reform the obligations and consequences of female domesticity.  In particular, I explore how displaced homemakers undermined the gendered division of labor by celebrating domesticity and other work traditionally performed by women.

“ ‘Caution and Discretion’: Pursuing Lesbian Desire Within Marriage, 1945-1965
Lauren Gutterman, New York University

Using interviews, memoirs, diaries and letters to the DOB or its long-time leaders Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, this paper examines how married women pursed lesbian desire before the emergence of the gay liberation and lesbian feminist movements. Confined to their local communities by childcare and household responsibilities, and ambivalent about publicly claiming a lesbian or bisexual identity, most wives had limited access to “out” lesbian worlds. Instead, I demonstrate, they transformed the nuclear family household itself into a lesbian space. This paper thus brings together seemingly disparate histories of women’s domestic “containment” and lesbian community formation at midcentury.

Commentator: Susan Levine, University of Illinois at Chicago

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.