The full 1950 Census results have been released–each Census is made completely available 75 years after it was taken. You can access them at The United States Census Bureau website.
We were scanning a collection of highlighted data and were depressed to see this roundup of questions:
One notes, of course, that “he” is used for “person” throughout, until that last question: “If female and ever married, how many children has she ever borne, not counting stillbirths?”
No questions about how long a woman has been working or how much money she has earned, or her potential service in the Armed Forces during the wars, or anything about her being a head of household. Of course women did all of these things, as the actual Census data makes clear. For women to have to answer questions clearly meant to exclude them, to make ridiculous or fantastical the idea that they might work or serve their country, was painful. But they did it. They refused to be turned into objects of reproduction whose only purpose or “service” to their country was to be pregnant.
It’s still painful today for women to be acknowledged as heads of household and breadwinners, but subjected to economic, physical, and mental discrimination and violence. And it’s frightening as well as painful to endure the hysterical insistence that’s been rising since the 80s to force women “back” into an existence as birthing objects. As we face the seemingly inevitable reversal of Roe v. Wade, the battle against sex education, and the refusal of many health insurers and employers to cover birth control, it’s very frightening to see how much some people want women to be pregnancy vessels and nothing else.
These “pro-birth” people demand that every pregnancy be carried to term, but then steadfastly refuse to offer any supports for the baby that is born, voting against free school breakfast and lunch, government-funded preschool programs, after-school programs, and affordable health care. Once a baby is born, the people who demanded that birth do their utmost to make sure the child does not thrive.
An important step in continuing the battle against sexism is to reject the myth that the Fifties were a golden age in America. Start that work today! Fight back against any and all programs and laws that relegate women to child-bearers, and so many children to lives of want.