Swiss American Historical Society Review

Swiss American Historical Society Review


Elisabeth Joris


Iris von Roten, women authors




Postscript to Frauen im Laufgitter Bern: efef Verlag, 1996

The 1950s

Iris von Roten wrote her epochal work Frauen im Laufgitter (Women in the Playpen) in the 1950s. Growth of industry and increasing prosperity marked the times, and the Unites States had emerged victorious from the war. The American life style had gained model status also for the role assigned to women and mothers; the change, however, was only superficial. The new housewife was young, uncomplicated, spontaneous, and she knew how to handle daily chores with amazing ease. Refrigerators as well as canned and soon also frozen foods made preparing meals easier, and vacuum cleaners, washing machines, easy care furniture, and airy apartments lightened the daily household chores. In the private sphere a newly evolved sex appeal of women was manifested by the pert half-apron or the Kasak, edging out the old fashioned linen apron. Although sleeveless dresses and decolletes in front or back suggested freer morals, the principle of marital fidelity was upheld and sexuality was hardly discussed or questioned, being considered an "intimate" private matter between spouses. The concerns of mothers and housewives centered on child rearing, the garden, and the general atmosphere of the household. The professional career of the husband and the education of the children were paramount since only these guaranteed social and material advancement. Women who advocated their political and legal equality were a small minority and mostly over forty. They could be ridiculed with impunity and mocked as frustrated old spinsters.