August 18, 2005

Careers for Girls.

Bradley's Almanac has some amazing pictures of the pieces of a 1966 board game for girls called "What Shall I Be?" (Via Jonah Goldberg.) There are six possible careers: teacher, nurse, actress, model, airline stewardess, and ballerina. Actually, that's I big improvement over what I heard about growing up. If you wanted to be a "career gal" — as opposed to a mother — your choices were: teacher, nurse, and secretary.

23 comments:

bill said...

I blame the Disney princess books for my 3.5-year-old daughter wanting to be a mermaid when she grows up. Which, I guess, is a step up from the duck she wanted to be last year.

Kathy Herrmann said...

Just call me the exception from way back when. Always wanted to be a spy. Had a fingerprint kit and everything.

Sloanasaurus said...

I guess you could say that we lived under a kind of Sharia law in the 1960s.

Tonya said...

My mom was one of six children -- 4 girls and 2 boys. All 4 girls became nurses.

Donna B. said...

Out of the six careers, four of them depend on looks and/or body type as much as or more than skill.

That's changed somewhat for airline stewardess - looks & size may not be as important there as they were in the 60s, but it hasn't changed at all for the other three.

A career as a model or ballerina isn't going to last a lifetime either.

Freeman Hunt said...

That's funny. My grandmother was a nurse, my other grandmother was a ballet instructor, and my step-grandmother was a teacher.

The first thing I ever wanted to be was an apple-picker because I figured that they were the only people who got to ride bikes and carry ladders at the same time. I thought that that would be a lot of fun.

John McCrarey said...

Dare I say it... you've come a long way baby...

That Virginia Slims ad has got to be almost as sexist as the game itself, with the added benefit of encouraging a destructive behavior.

I also remember the newspaper classifieds that catergorized as "help wanted female" and would include qualifications as young and attractive. You know, a "girl Friday" type.

Come to think of it, women really have come a long way. I suspect not far enough. For example, was recently denied a promotion for a less qualified male because she had recently had a baby. Yep, the actually said that. And yes, she has hired an attorney.

John McCrarey said...

oops, that should say my daughter was recently denied a promotion....

Becky Jo said...

I'm older than you, Ann, but the same three options were available -- nurse, teacher, secretary -- though not as careers. Oh, no, they were holding patterns until marriage, and/or insurance against widowhood (divorce was not a consideration!)

Ron said...

What tha?!? You mean to say, Ann, you're NOT a ballerina? I'm shocked!

John Althouse Cohen said...

That blog post also points out that there was an equivalent game for boys, which was also limited to six possible careers. So a boy can be an "athlete," but only a girl can be a "teacher."

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, John. I see it lists the career paths:

Law School - Statesman
Graduate School - Scientist
College - Athlete
Medical School - Doctor
Technical School - Engineer
Flight School - Astronaut


Funny that Law School didn't lead to being a lawyer!

You've got to admit the suggestions made to boys were far more likely to make them successful. Interesting that the usual policeman/fireman options are omitted. Nothing artistic and nonmasculine makes the list though. Clearly, both games are trying to shape young minds to gender stereotypes. The boy's game pushes the players toward a higher class level than the girl's game does though.

iocaste said...

They updated the game, I believe in the 70s. I grew up on it, but my choices included Astronaut and, I believe, news anchor.

Bruce Hayden said...

When my daughter was young, there were certain Disney movies that were off limits for her. And she pretty quickly knew why. If the female in the movie was passive, we didn't go. No Sleeping Beauty for her, waiting passively for Prince Charming to kiss her and wake her up.

But I have to say that over the years, Disney has gotten a lot better. Much more likely today for the girl to be an active heroine.

I would like to think that our efforts were successful. So far, she seems to believe that there is little that she can't do. Some of the military combat specialties due to strength limitations. Beyond that, probably nothing. Which is what I want.

Bruce Hayden said...

There have long been women who didn't fit the mold. When I was in business school in the 1970s, I had one female prof who was proud that she was breaking into that male bastion. I never had the heart to tell her that my grandmother and a friend of hers broke in probably forty years earlier. She was a college professor teaching accounting through the 1930s and 1940s.

Wade_Garrett said...

I agree that Disney movies have gotten a lot better -- Mulan, for instance, is miles away from Sleeping Beauty. A lot of them still end in marriage, but then, comedies have been ending in marriage since before the time of Shakespeare, so I guess Disney can't be faulted for that.

I'm in my mid-20's, and a lot of guys my age and younger expect more out of women professionally, to the point where we sometimes feel disappointed if a friend of ours wants to stay home with her child. Perhaps it was that my mother and aunt were both professionals with graduate degrees. Or might it be from watching Princess Leia kick so much butt?

Slocum said...

I think it's a gross simplification to think that little girls in the 50's and 50's (or even 30's and 40's) thought their only possible occpations were nurse, teacher, stewardess, etc.

When I was a kid (in the 60s), my pediatrician was female. Even see 'Adam's Rib'? A woman lawyer wasn't exactly an outlandish concept. Nor was a woman lawyer married to another lawyer. The outlandish concept was them on opposite sides of the same case. Other careers that were obviously open to women in 'the bad old days' -- writer, professor, singer, photographer, artist. The original 'computers' weren't electronic machines, they were (mostly) women who did calculations manually.

One of my great-grandmothers graduated from college in '02 -- my aunt has her college yearbook. It's pretty cool.

Bruce Hayden said...

I will suggest that it was really in the aftermath of WWII that these stereotypes were so reinforced, and that it was intentially done to get women out of the workforce and into marriage, freeing up jobs for returning GIs (and ultimately resulting in the Baby Boom).

Maybe because of the Great Depression, it seems like women working was really better accepted during my grandparents' generation than my parents' generation. I do know that two incomes during that time kept my father from seeing most of the privations that others experienced during that time.

Of course, the timing of Adam's Rib (1949) somewhat refutes my theory, though arguably Tracy was more my grandparents' generation, having been born in 1900 (they were born right before then). Hepburn, born in 1907, was actually between my grandparents' and my parents' generations.

Kim said...

My three-year old son recently announced that "only boys can be train engineers." This isn't terribly surprising, given the ubiquity and popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine among the pre-school set. At Tidmouth Station, where Thomas lives, there are approximately 1 "female" (named) engines for every 10 "male" engines. The vast majority of female characters are passenger cars that the railroad owner -- male, of course -- gives to the (male) engines as a reward for being Really Useful. How Really Annoying.

jeff said...

Kim,

Sounds very British to me... I know on the shortline in my area there are several female employees, including conductors and engineers.

Wade_Garrett said...

I agree with Bruce. Everything I've come across that talks about this trend suggests that after WW2 there was a lot of pressure - more than there had every been previously - for women already in the workforce to leave the workforce, if their occupation was in a field in which they might be taking a job away from a man. In 1947 there were not a lot of men who wanted to be nurses.

It seems as if, in large part, the pressure on women to stay at home and/or work in "women's careers" is a by-product of affluence. In the 1980s there was a big reaction against feminism, perhaps because the country was starting to do well again economically.

jennifer said...

Oh...I had forgotten about secretary when I was remembering the "So you want to be..." series of books found in my 1960s elementary school library. Well, at least we had three careers from which to choose.

Matt Drachenberg said...

I figured they'd have Prostitute in there. Just to scare the "bad" girls, of course.