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PATTY CARROLL: Death by Décor


She is both victim and creator of her circumstance

By Alasdair Foster in America


Rosie was a riveter, emblematic of the women who stepped into the factories and shipyards of America when the men went off to fight the Second World War. For many it was an emancipating experience as they demonstrated that they were perfectly capable of tackling jobs traditionally consider men’s work. But when war ended and the men returned home, they wanted their jobs back. Thus began the mid-century social re-engineering of American womanhood.

In films and on television, in magazines and advertising, women were recast in hyper-feminine mould, and firmly placed back in the home. Bright colours and jazzy patterns were the order of the day, in female attire and interior décor, as the home became both an extension of her identity and its constraint. While the pre-war drudgery of housework was alleviated by a plethora of modern labour-saving gadgets, the rapidly expanding consumer society demanded a feverishly acquisitive materialism. To keep up, the amphetamines that had been doled out to soldiers to keep them alert and upbeat in time of war were repackaged in peacetime and marketed to housewives to ensure they stayed chipper and maintained their willowy silhouette. Meanwhile the trope of America’s ‘happy homemakers’ was embedded in the binary rhetoric of Cold War propaganda that cast Russian women as Communist factory slaves. FOR MORE

women artists, womens history, WOMENS LIVES

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