In March 1952, singer Hank Thompson released one of country music’s most popular songs. “The Wild Side of Life” spent over three months atop the Billboard country chart that spring and summer. The song is about a man in love, scorned by a woman more attracted to “the glamor of the gay night life” and “the places where the wine and liquor flows” than being the type of wife he wanted. Thompson sings in the chorus: “I didn’t know God made honky tonk angels / I might have known you’d never make a wife / You gave up the only one that ever loved you / And went back to the wild side of life”
The Pittsburgh Press, March 4, 1940 (click on image to read full article)
Elizabeth Hawes was born into an upper class family in New Jersey in 1903. Even by age 12, when she was commissioned to make dresses for a shop in Pennsylvania, she knew she wanted to be a fashion designer. She studied at Vassar College and Parsons School of Design, worked in a Paris fashion copy house, and wrote about fashion for The New Yorker. In 1928, she opened her clothing firm, Hawes Inc., which originally made expensive custom outfits for women affluent enough to afford them. Though she produced clothing for the wealthy, Hawes often mocked high fashion by introducing a bohemian influence to her designs and including styles for full figured women. She also believed women’s clothes should be comfortable and nonrestrictive, which meant a shift toward free flowing outfits and even – as shocking as it may sound – pants for women. Read the rest of this entry »
Since Easter is coming up, our Throwback Thursday clip for this week takes us back to Easter Sunday, 1939. Watch the video below to see Marian Anderson performing in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on April 9, 1939.
Marian Anderson was a world renowned vocalist and one of the most accomplished singers in the United States during the 1930s. She was the first black entertainer to perform at the White House, which she did twice at the behest of the Roosevelts in 1936 and 1939. Despite her success, she was still subjected to the racial discrimination faced by all black Americans during the first half of the 20th century. En route to gigs across the country, Anderson was often forced to take “colored” transportation and stay in “colored” accommodation, or arrange to stay at friends’ homes in the cities in which she was scheduled to perform. Her shows were also often performed to segregated audiences.
In 1939, Anderson had hoped to perform an Easter Sunday concert at the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.)’s Constitution Hall in Washington, DC, a major concert venue in the city. She was told, however, that Constitution Hall had a strict “whites only” policy and she would not be permitted to perform there. The D.A.R.’s refusal to host the concert at Constitution Hall garnered a good deal of publicity, especially after Eleanor Roosevelt, a D.A.R. member herself, publicly criticized and left the organization due to its reinforced segregation policy. Having previously performed at the White House, Anderson also had other supporters within the Roosevelt administration, including Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, who, taking the NAACP’s suggestion, arranged for Marian Anderson to perform in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
On April 9, 1939, 75,000 people, including many high ranking government officials, gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to watch Anderson’s concert on the National Mall. At the time, it was one of the largest crowds to assemble there. Radio coverage of the performance allowed millions more to listen to it from their homes. The event marked a change in the way many Americans viewed racial issues, and by 1943, Constitution Hall opened its doors to Marian Anderson by inviting her to perform there before a desegregated audience for a WWII benefit concert.
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We are starting a couple of new themed days on our NWHM blog! Today’s theme: Throwback Thursday. Each Thursday, we will be posting a multimedia clip from the past that was relevant to and reflective of women’s lives in the time period it was made. Check back every Thursday for exciting videos, audio clips, photos, and more!
For the past two weeks, the news that TV legend, Valerie Harper, has incurable (“so far”) brain cancer has been allover the media. I am a huge fan of Harper’s and Rhoda Morgenstern, the character she played for nine years on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, is my favorite television character of all time. While Harper has been making the rounds encouraging people to live for the now, I would like to celebrate one of my favorite moments from her past. So, to kick off Throwback Thursday, here is a scene from a 1975 episode of Rhoda, “Windows by Rhoda.”
I love it when pop culture and social history come together, and I think this clip is definitely indicative of a meshing between the two, as it highlights many of the issues women were protesting during the Women’s Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. Rhoda had been a department store window dresser for at least five years by this time, since The Mary Tyler Moore Show started in 1970, but in this episode, she decides to start her own window dressing business, Windows by Rhoda. In this clip, Rhoda and her husband, Joe, are in the process of setting up Rhoda’s new office. The building manager comes in and asks Joe to sign Rhoda’s lease because “they prefer that the man of the house sign it.” Rhoda stands up for herself, telling the building manager it is her office and that she paid for it with her own money, and then signs the lease anyway. She then goes on to tell Joe she faces discrimination like that “all the time” as a working woman, gives him one such example right before someone else comes into the office and proves her example right, and explains to him why she needs a separate identity other than that of his wife.
One of the main goals of the Women’s Movement was to get women out of the home and into the workforce (this applied mostly to white women, as women of color often did not have the luxury to choose between staying at home and working). Women were coming together to push for equal job opportunities, equal pay, and equal treatment at work. They were also asserting their right to go into business for themselves. In order to do this, women often needed the ability to obtain their own bank accounts, loans, credit, and leases without discrimination or necessary approval from their husbands or other male relatives. Within the short span of this clip, Rhoda touches on all these issues and more.
Check out this video of Bella Abzug talking about how she helped pass the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, which prohibits creditors from discriminating against applicants, including on the basis of sex.
Join in on the conversation! Post comments below or Tweet us @womenshistory using the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday.