Bringing Home the Bacon and Frying It Up Too: A Cultural History of the Working Mother in America, 1950-2000


ACLS Fellowship Program


History and American Studies


This study is a cultural history of the working mother in America since 1950. Existing histories of rising maternal employment do not adequately explain why working mothers remain such charged figures in US society. This study interprets debates about working mothers as an index of how Americans have dealt with anxieties triggered by the simultaneous departure of mothers from the private sphere and the emergence of a postindustrial economic order. It provides close analysis of representations of the working mother in popular media, political debates, and social science, and draws upon this analysis to explain why the United States has not enacted family-friendly policies embraced by other nations. It also examines the cultural work performed by working-mother images in making sense of the new economic order.