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The following tape recorded program was produced in the studios of KPFA Berkeley California under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters in connection with the series the American woman in fact and fiction recently presented by the station. We offer a panel discussion recorded under informal circumstances in the KPFA studios. The participants in the discussion are Mark Schorer writer and professor of English literature at the University of California Ethel Albert and her apologist and recent fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the behavioral sciences at Stanford University. Dr. Anna Mencken Berkeley psychiatrist Peter Gold a guard professor of political science at the University of California and former president of Reed College Miriam Allen the Ford writer of San Francisco and Virginia Maynard writer and director of the series on the American woman in fact and fiction as a starting point for the following conversation.
Each participant read the chapter entitled The ordeal of the American woman which appears in the book America as a civilization by Max Lerner published in 157 by Simon and Schuster. The most continuous American revolutionary rights learner is the American woman. First there was the suffrage revolution as part of the long hard fought movement for equal rights in which a succession of strong minded women in the face of jeers and humiliation broke into previously barred professions and won the right to an equal education with men to speak in public to vote for and hold office. Second there was the sexual revolution directed against the double standard of morality and aimed again for women and some of the same privileges of sexual expressiveness as the men had coming in the wake of the Equal Rights Movement. It was a phase at once of the revolt against Puritanism and of the dislocations caused by the First World War. Related to the revolution of morals was
third the revolution of manners with women shedding their cumbersome garments and adopting form fitting clothes and revealing swimsuits and shorts taking part in sports driving cars and even piloting planes serving in war time as wax and waves smoking cigarettes and drinking in public. Fourth says Lerner there was the kitchen revolution with mechanized kitchens and canned and prepared foods giving some women greater leisure and enabling others to get industrial and clerical jobs. Finally there was the jobs revolution which transformed the American working force as it also transformed women's role in the economy. In one thousand twenty there were eight million women holding jobs in 1955. There were more than 27 million comprising over 30 percent of the labor force. During the first quarter of the present century says Max Lerner the American woman strove for equal rights with men
having achieved them. She has spent the second quarter wondering about the result. A section from Lerner's America as a civilization. The chapter the ordeal of the American woman we are about to join the discussion now as the panelists are talking about recent book length publications concerned with modern woman Wiley's generation of vipers as mentioned Margaret Mead's male and female the Kinsey Report and the Lundberg says modern woman in the last seconds someone mentions a very recent work in titled The trouble with women. The conversation turns to magazines and newspapers. Regular contributors to this unprecedented flow of comment on the American woman from a large stack of clippings on the table around which the panelists are seated. The moderator selects a number of Representative items from recent periodicals cartoons illustrating some facet of the so called Woman Question articles and interviews with various
commentators on the American scene. Some of the titles are red U.S. women told to forget the qualities as one. It took courage and research to say women are people. Goes another American women want to be everything reads yet another report of an interview with a British born journalist Alastair Cook. Does all this comment bear out learner's contention that the American woman is undergoing an ordeal as the moderator. If so what is the nature of the ordeal. The modern dilemma. We hear the response of psychiatrist and unlike you I don't see any of our old. But what I think you holes in our Deal of an American woman seems to be based on insecurity of the American woman about herself as if there is a confusion of the role women that think you mention the cartoons you mentioned they all make fun of the multiple functions of an American woman today as if
she is. If he lives a number of different levels at the same time with the result that she doesn't know where she actually belong as if her sense of identity is confused. Well the usual arsing wife mother or sister coming home only to become the fool for a while then to switch back to cook and housekeeper and in between the sophisticated lady at a cocktail party. What is she really. She handles the budget. She is planning practically everything in the family. It seems to me that it is a mini general job she is managing things. Previous times father brought the bacon and her room and cook it and there didn't seem to be a very great problem about the role. Now all her activities do not satisfy her. She has to paint or learn to fly an airplane to express
herself. Why express are injured while eating well. Only one thought at this point and possibly because she does not say mke of herself first and last as her family. But she sings of herself as an individual who does an expert job and many expect Jobs in and for her family. Her existence does not consist in being one but in doing something she lives in different levels of activity. There is no wonder of course that her sense of identity is confused. The point I wanted to bring out is the difference in being in tune. Doctor ordered guard and then presented his view. It seems to me that you have to do two kinds of booze here and that there is a kind of image of women and it is only I think there are many images of
women and there are countless different roles that women play and I think the image that you may have of women will depend upon your close status. I suspect that the image of women which have been for example by the aristocracy of uniquely in the 17th 18th century was a quite different in the age of women than was held by the Russian peasant. And I suspect that's true today. And most of the discussions that appear in the paper. I've written by leisure class people people who have time on their hands and don't know what to do with it. Most of them are not applicable in my judgment to the vast majority of working women their wives and sweethearts sisters of miners and farmers and so on
there as I see here this business of male female man and woman is a pretty elemental business after all it's the most elementary of all the divisions of labor. It nature and it does represent fundamentally a difference of a division of labor a difference of function and biological function in the world and it's just fantastic to assume that a division of labor and a differential of function so profit on the spot should not result in differences of temperament or point of view of values and so on. I read an article some years ago by Floyd Allport a psychologist in Harper's magazine in which he argued that the talk about differences sex differences has a lot of nonsense
that sex differences were socially imposed never a conventional No. Entirely so. If you see women as they are you see them as just I suppose it's without agenda. And this business I've had de sexualize a vision of both the male and the female in the process of forgetting the elementary function of this division of labor. Makes me a bit impatient. Well now to marry and before dying I don't want to disagree. Yes you see me bursting. I don't want to go out on a tangent I would take you up on that I could talk for an hour on that point. As a matter of fact it has not be sexualizing anybody nearly 100 percent of the so-called male or female characteristics outside of the primers sex and secondary sexual characters are the matter of turning up conditioning of a sociology not of biology. I think this is
true but they arise from the house he thinks of nothing we want to remember is of the something much more basic than the differentiation the male and female us a differentiation into human beings and non-human beings we are all primarily human and that the least important thing about most of us is that whether where they all feel man or female feel oh god how. Oh yeah. It's not enough time as you say I do what I want to say Protect Your only as and far more I got angry here now that I think if there is a dilemma it is a much more universal dilemma Lemme either of the American woman or a woman. I think we're living in a time of profound transition where living out of time at present of the worst insecurity even beyond the and security of life in them in the dark ages. In other words a time of fear. It's a universal dilemma. Well I heartily agree with what you've said. I think that those of us who've
done some work in anthropology are particularly impressed by the incredible contrasts as you move from one culture to another where as I think I mentioned to you earlier in Africa it is taken for granted that the woman is the appropriate one to do hard labor and I think it's a role the curious that. Women in my country are able to get the men to do the hard work and I think that's not fair because those poor chaps you know kept carrying all these heavy things and work such long hours and they're not laws. You know they go off and get drunk or stop and visit and you get down to some very simple things like basket weaving in one culture this is obviously a male occupation and another it's just as obviously a female occupation. And I think to follow your line you go on from there to the differences out of sight between people who have a skin one color or another or who speak one language or another. It isn't that there aren't any differences is that we have to backtrack and find out what the differences really are and then I think raise the question what difference it makes.
The fact that one creature is female and one male makes a certain difference at least biologically and perhaps in other ways. But is it necessarily the case that because you are female you are better at French than at mathematics or that you ought to stay home and cook instead of guy out to do something I think that the differences have to be re-evaluated later. Dr. Olga Gardner referred again to the question of women and labor. A social tradition custom and so on and so forth. Also the distribution process. I just returned from the Soviet Union for the last time 10 million people liked what even a fuel shortage of men and a great deal of the things that we noticed in there so few women are going they probably would not be doing if there were not this eclipse.
I suspect the same is true of the technological revolution that's taking place in the United States under which when going into industry and going into business so professions have a much greater rate than ever before in history. Then Dr. Ro the guard brought out the point that all through history women have been placed in a position of subservience in relation to men and said Doctor or the guard. This has been part of our culture from the beginning. As armor goes to the player ever since the patriarchal says no no no I am like I'm curious to know agriculture whether or not the president let me interview down there may not be back and this is changing and changing perhaps very fast. I remember a descendant of ours meeting in 1840 I do or not you do not know. You don't want to remember. Remember to look at how much money do you think it's a citizen D'Antonio
meeting was 200 years ago I was asked why it was that teachers occupied such an inferior position in American society and were paid such low wages. Particularly elementary school teachers and her reply to this group was this. She says so long as teaching is open to women and women occupying most of the teaching profession teaching is going to suffer. In our culture and only when it becomes a prest digitus occupation such that men will enter. And as a matter of fact if you look at the structure of American education the elementary school teacher was usually a woman is the bottom of the heap in terms of status in terms of income. Next is the high school teacher and this is somewhat higher and the university professor
is only in a different world. Well I suspect there's a sex factor that I would do undertake to contradict you. I agree with the first statement you made but not with the evidence you're offering it is a huge arrow to your English speaking countries namely Great Britain and our own country. But the teaching professions are a cause for comedy rather than respect the British schoolmaster the very male is not a respected figure. And that is my experience. Well he may be that way in some places he may be considered worthwhile but from what information I have been given the teaching professions are not on or in the academic professions are not honored as much as a lot of say making a lot of money or even for that matter performing in public at all events there is some question I think whether the entry of males into the elementary educational system has helped very much. If you consider the kind of second job as an elementary school male teacher has to take a janitor or something else that
is nearest Margulies or even you know elementary school. For example there are jobs that pay most and that have the most part. Administrative jobs athletic coach jobs that you really go to to name and have his start and incidentally the jobs that most resemble business to get lost if you approach the business you need a more prestige to have a business man's culture. This X Factor and I'm overloading your body I think running a sex discrimination accounts with a lower position of women are not a lower position of woman for the lack of respect for the teaching profession. Well I don't believe that the phase of the subject I'd like to mention very briefly a book that I imagine I'm the only person around here who has ever read because it's very old and is full of faults and is now extremely outmoded but has an extremely interesting thesis
and I you may know of Dr machen. Don sexpot meant to limit time in Britain and here I have not translated by Eden and cedar Paul. Well there there remain places which I think is extremely interesting and very suggestive is that there is a sort of pendulum swaying as social and economic and political changes come about and our history which at one time say with a beginning or agriculture and a patriarchal family man gradually becomes the dominant sex and there's a period of equilibrium which we may be approaching our gradually woman becomes the dominant sex and so on but that is not their main thesis. Their main thesis which I think is extremely interesting and valuable is that the characteristics which we ascribe to women. You know I talk too much they catch me you know that sort of thing. Those are always the characteristics attributed to the
subordinate sex. Whereas most courage and adventure. Oh I started winning are the characteristics not of men or of women but of the dominant sex in any one period in which once I was dominant over there I thought of this book. Later Dr. Minkin returned to the present situation in the United States and made this point about the American woman's newfound freedom. Well this freedom from all and any tensions conflict and struggles. What happens if the woman is freeing herself by a new bit of gadgets. She has more time but I'm afraid that she is losing the enjoyment of feeding and caring for her family. The complete the relaxation IDEO meal which ends in your Vanna is a tragic leap at this idea because life is change and struggle and conflict and I feel
that our identity as a human being man or woman grows out of this struggle and conflict and tension it grows out of it not out of me. Now I wonder if the panelist will agree to take on Doctor making one of the time to write looks as if you are so right I got your diaper and your partner in before and maybe i'm sure you know well I'll yield to Dr Ambedkar I replied like the guy in the street just a man will do what I said in the first place I think it's she already lied and all of the things that she so eloquently described are characteristic also in an American male who thinks I would look at the ads for retirement fish. No parasites completely lacks ation. I would like to suggest this amendment. I don't go to many movies and I don't see many television programmes and I don't read many of the pulp magazines so I'm not good with those. You mean us likes the paps are
like that taunt. God will probably wonder and directly I get the impression that. Mostly young the male and the young female want to do is to get rid of all the struggle and all problems so that they can spend all of their time in the battle of the sexes so that the amendment I suggested we wish to emancipate ourselves from the problems of the family in the home and children from the problems of business and industry from the problems of politics and world peace and so on so that we can all spend our time chasing each other until we catch each other and so that the struggles of life which have filled the lives of people through the Asians will be simplified and reduced to the simple elementary struggle
now is the battle of the sects that of the trees. Well all I'm suggesting is that this is the pattern I get from the ads this is the pattern I get from the movies this is the pattern I get from television programs that people in the movies and neither they don't spin on the radio so they chase one another. I think things get very much for the answer to that is that one is being called our youth centered culture has produced the over emphasis perfectability on on the hand the thoughtless happiness of childhood which means that both boys and girls never grow up. I say what I have as a sort of thought of marbles. Some of this in addition to some of us read the discussion of American society continue. Mark Schorer addressed a question to Dr. Elders and I want a yes or a no is in your conception American society a matriarchy are not a
doctor. Technically it's a patriarchy. I think functionally like most societies it's a matriarchy. Like most yes I have seen a real patriarchy functioning and the women run the show and the men that when they make the American momma look like an amateur. The wife has to serve her husband kneeling and then when company is gone she has me wrapped around her little manger. No I'm talking about Sandra. It was apparent to me whatever wherever you go for I think that women pay man back. If I was going to go. Can I ask about this because it troubles me. I've heard that time ago heard of French society the French women for example when they were struggling for the right to vote they didn't start the very hour because everybody said that about what you always say of the first woman she really runs the show all the same is true that is being said now the Swiss women because of the same issue is up there. It's been said of American settlers that as you say it's been said of every society.
I wonder if there isn't a kind of rationalizing nation I which the ruling dominant male sex which exploits and on this treats its women doesn't somehow. For today I blow all this by saying Oh well yes after all she knew and says she I have liked this character recently recorded in a paper called his wives into the hairy human have their teeth because they violated an injunction against smoking. I dare say he was happy. Yes but they really rule me. Good for you. Well I think that I'll backtrack this far. I think that what happens I go right back to the book the dominant sex of the major thesis of which I can't agree with. I think that it puts a premium on cleverness whenever you have a powerful versus the submissive group whether it's a difference in
a nation or a difference in sex. A clever woman. Runs her husband in a patriarchal society. I'm not so clever one is really in bad condition and I think it's very comparable to the kind of thing that occurred in feudal society where if you had a good Lord then it was allowed to be a serf or in slavery if you had a good model it was dandy to be a slave but heaven help you if you had a bad one and I think that this extend I will say that it seems to me find it strange to have a situation of greater proximity quality without the need to rely on the goodwill of the superior and they cover it as of the inferior for things to be run. Just one final point on this said in America that we should look up to that.
That's the America that really runs things here. And yet if you want to compliment a woman you tell her she thinks like a man. You don't compliment a man by telling him he thinks like a woman or that he drives like a woman. Notwithstanding the fact that women probably have fewer accidents and lower than that a dervish. Nevertheless there is this dominant sex and I suspect a great deal of stores back to this but I'm not going to say hanging around our foot is a man halfway you runs anything either I keep coming back to that people have problems and even men have problems and sometimes when I'm feeling like joking as I do at this moment I want now that I've got over being an adolescent suffragette to start a society to give men equal rights with women they need it. I would like to carry this just a step further and say that not only is what your Dr. AAGAARD said true but also there is a certain amount of
conscious I'm an eye at the size of knowledge is certainly not conscious resentment on the part of a great many men especially men of the articulate professions. The overt privileges and superiority and homemade shit they have lost which expresses itself by such remarks is just like a woman there are women that never say anything directly when I never finish their sentences etc. etc. etc.. I suspect that part of the so-called i shared precisely at this point is no longer true. These things no longer really apply and then go out and they don't like it and I don't know why. Underneath it's like it extremely well. Coming back to this country from our pearl and Europe I was pressed by the differentness of American women and their relative and a parent on them and in the US compared with other ladies. What do you mean by fellow. Well when a woman shakes your hand
if she's an American you know your hand's been shook. Whereas a French lady gives you her how and why it's a much more centered on her right out of us but I think would be the primary difference is one of strategy rather than descriptive fact I think that a given individual variation in any country some Frenchwomen some African women run their husbands and some get run by them and some American women run their husbands and some get run by them. But American women lack the delicacy to conceal their dominance. For some time later Dr Oda Guard returned to a point brought out by Dr. Minkin at the outset of the discussion the womens feeling of insecurity which the doctor told the guards affects the sex problem. Then he submitted the following observations. There are five hundred done and about four or five million more women in the United States that Romney could answer. Its our court and politically and maybe if youre active or take any interest in public
affairs for example you know that the approach to public affairs of a womens organization such as the League of Women Voters is quite different from that of men and it really is I know of no comparable male organization to the League of Women Voters. Where you got a rational thoughtful approach to a public problem where you have a whole room full of dedicated Republican women voting for a New Deal program upon the basis of a reasonable and rational analysis that is a frightening prospect. Well overnight or in the heart of our our American system of having relegated all cultural and intellectual pursuits we've been in the notice of the businessman who is the supposed to be the american out. Very good you know this has been the word just now and clearly said the business of America's business and everything else is a personal thing that's totally irrational.
Apparently John's knowledge of going to the city council in Berkeley or in Oakland and watch who attends the city council meetings and listens and keeps up its women. There are very few men if any leisure and they come home and tell their husbands what's going on in their city.
American woman in fact and fiction
Roundtable, part one
Producing Organization
pacifica radio
KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program is the first of a two-part panel discussion on the modern woman. Participants include writer Mark Schorer; political scientist Peter H. Odegard; anthropologist Ethel Albert; and writer Miriam Allen deFord.
Series Description
Thirteen half-hour programs illustrating with dramatization the changing status of women in America from colonial times to the present day, plus a one-hour panel discussion on modern-day problems.
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Director: Maynard, Virginia
Panelist: Schorer, Mark, 1908-1977
Panelist: Odegard, Peter H., 1901-1966
Panelist: Albert, Ethel Evans, 1915-
Panelist: De Ford, Miriam Allen, 1888-1975
Producing Organization: pacifica radio
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Writer: Maynard, Virginia
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-19-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:05
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Chicago: “American woman in fact and fiction; Roundtable, part one,” 1959-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
MLA: “American woman in fact and fiction; Roundtable, part one.” 1959-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <>.
APA: American woman in fact and fiction; Roundtable, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from