Reflections

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The anti-communism movement of the 1950s frequents a male image. In an era defined by neat gender roles and stereotypes, women contribute an interesting and under-appreciated narrative. Whilst big organizations, founded on women’s conservatism, promoted an anti-communism that shielded ‘family values’ and true Americanism, they kept within their expected gender representations.

Women’s attitudes towards anti-communism often stemmed from the domestic realm. With the rise of consumerism came a redefinition of what it meant to be a housewife, a mother and a husband. As men bought financial strength and security, women sought agency in protecting their families from the communist threats. Occupied with presenting as the perfect mother within a stable family, women “espoused an anti-communism that went beyond political or diplomatic concerns.” For these women, “at the heart of anti-communism… was the defense of their idealized vision of the United States.”[1] In doing so, gender stereotypes were projected on to politics, as conservative women worked to prop up the patriarchy from within their resistance.

The considerable input of women in the anti-communist movement, moreover, is largely absent from historical narratives of the fifties. Despite the intertwining of domesticity and anti-communism, the movement often neglects the political and social commentary that mothers and wives provided. In upholding the ‘American’ vision through groups such as the Minute Women or DAR, or by simply being a vigilant neighbor, white, upper-class housewives of the 1950s saw anti-communism as a source for their deepest concerns regarding the direction of the States.


References

[1] Mary Brennan, Wives, Mothers and the Red Menace: Conservative Women and the Crusade against Communism, (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2008), 119.

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Thank you for visiting the Spring 2020 Online Exhibition: Feminine Domesticity and Anti-Communism at the Museum of HIST 4435.