In 1968 the “Norman Rockwell” picture of the American family – the husband as breadwinner, the stay-at-home wife and mother, two kids, a white picket fence – was still widely accepted as the ideal. But things were starting to change. The feminist movement was encouraging more women to enter the workforce and protest traditional American ideals of femininity – including the 1968 Miss America pageant. At the same time, the manufacturing jobs that employed many men were starting to move overseas. For many Americans this wasn’t just a change in the structure of the typical family – it was a sign that essential American values were in danger.
In this episode, Phillip talks with historian Natasha Zaretsky about how worries about the state of the American family led to fears about the decline of American society – and how this continues to galvanize conservatives across the country to this day. It’s a phenomenon Zaretsky has been driven to understand since her childhood in liberal San Francisco after she discovered the disdain many people around the country had for people like her activist parents, a dynamic that continues to fascinate her today as she teaches conservative students in Southern Illinois.
Read more in this accompanying article from Natasha Zaretsky: Red-state politics in and out of the college classroom
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Archival Audio: Ms. America, Up Against the Wall