During World War II, women became much more prominent in the work force because they had to fill the jobs that men had worked before they were sent to war. This created an entirely new working class of women. When the war ended, the men came home, and expected to have their jobs back. The women were told to return to being housewives, fulfilling their role as the submissive caregiver, while men were told to reclaim their jobs and take the role as the powerful provider. This drastic change in the status of men and women at the end of WWII set the tone for gender roles in America until the 1960's.
WWII ENDS - September 2
FAY V NEW YORK - June 23
The decision of Fay vs. New York stated that women were equally qualified to serve on a jury as men, but that they could choose to exempt themselves. This decision was very out of character for the era, but it pushed for gender equality. It also promoted the view that women could take on the role of logical, decisive, and analytical thinkers.
COYA KNUTSON ELECTED - November 2
Coya Knutson was the first female congresswoman from Minnesota. During her two terms, she was an important advocate for funded school lunches and food stamp programs. Unfortunately, during her campaign for her third term, her own husband - who was known to be abusive - accused her of being an absent mother and wife, leading to her loss in the1958 election. Coya was turned from an example of female power and inspiration into an excuse for why women couldn't handle stressful jobs and were better suited for house work.
DAUGHTERS OF BILITIS
The Daughters of Bilitis was the first ever lesbian civil rights organization in the US. Not only was the formation of this group a huge step for LGBT+ rights in America, but it advocated for the idea that women should be allowed to have desires outside of what the patriarchal society wanted. Although the group's beliefs certainly did not fit the norms of the time, it was a crucial point in the change for both LGBT+ rights and societal gender roles.
HOYT V FLORIDA - November 20
Hoyt v Florida was somewhat of a follow-up case to Fay v New York. This case decided that women would be automatically exempted from jury duty unless they actively took the time to register to be on a jury list. The court's reasoning was that women were "still regarded as the center of home and family life." This case solidified the belief that a woman's job was to stay at home and serve while the man's was to do the thinking and working.
THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE - February 19
Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique revolutionized feminism. It was a response to the previous decade's constant oppression of women, and it called out the characterization of women as docile creatures that existed to serve men. It proposed the idea that women deserved to find personal fulfillment as well, and was a marker of the feminist movement that defined the coming decades.
EQUAL PAY ACT - June 10
This act required equal pay without discrimination of any kind (including sexism) for the same work. In other words, it meant that men and women had to be payed the same amount if they were in the same position. This bill was important for shifting gender roles because it recognized women as a distinct part of the work force, and legally made their efforts just as important and worth as a man's.