1950’s Housewives and Blues Women

I usually don’t change my opinion once I’ve arrived at a well-thought out conclusion. However, I have to admit that I gave a lot of thought to the discussion we had in class last week about blues women being feminists. After reading Angela Davis’ Blues Women our professor asked us each if we thought she successfully argued the case that the Blues women of the 1920s and 30s were political as feminists. My answer was no. And that really bothered me.

            I am a hardcore feminist because I grew up with a mother who was a hardcore feminist during second-wave feminism. She never missed an opportunity to tell me about how hard women fought for our rights today and that my generation always seems to take that for granted. So I learned. And very like my mother, I’m quick to find feminism in the most unlikely places. That being the case, why didn’t I think the Blues women were being political about their feminism?

            As I thought about it I remembered a discussion I had in my American Herstory class my senior year of college. We talked about the 1950s housewife and how they began meeting in their homes to discuss the unrest they were feeling in their current situations. My college professor asked the same question. Were these housewives meeting in their homes behind closed doors being political? And without a moment’s hesitation I said, “Absolutely, they were being political!!” Of course, this sparked a debate amongst my classmates about what it meant to be political, but I was on the side of these 50s women and I wasn’t going to back down. So I ask again, why were the Blues women different?

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           I came up with several answers to my question, but most importantly, I changed my mind. I now very much believe that Blues women were being political and that they preceded second-wave feminism. Essentially, they were ahead of their time, singing about issues that were real and horrifying, giving a voice and a vote to strong, independent women. What can be more political than that?

            I believe my failure to recognize the polticalness of it all was in the medium by which they chose to convey their message. Music, to me, has never been something that I’ve felt in my soul. Do I identify with some of it? Sure. I listen to Country Music because I grew up in a small town and what they sing about very often describes my childhood and my life. But I’ve never really felt it to the point where it has moved me deeply and irrevocably. Therefore, because music, particularly the Blues, was never a way I have been deeply moved or affected I immediately wrote it off as not being a political means of expression. I was wrong. Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it didn’t work for scores of other women. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was being narrow-minded and stubborn. It was hard for me to take a deep look at myself and identify a rather serious flaw in my person, but I’m glad I did. I will always admit when I’m wrong, even if it isn’t always easy. I was wrong about Blues women.

One thought on “1950’s Housewives and Blues Women

  1. Casey, I really liked your post. Sometimes it’s very difficult to place yourself in the position of someone living in the past. Their efforts can seem small to us when at the time they were actually quite significant.

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