Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Linda Van Ingen

Committee Members

Mark Ellis, William Stoutamire, Doug Biggs


gender roles;Great Plains


The 1950s stand out as a decade of traditional gender roles with mass media and popular culture continuously reinforcing messages about patriarchy, consumer culture, and the ideal of domesticity. Advertisements, magazines, and newspapers painted pictures of happy, white middle-class women utilizing the latest advancements in food and homemaking as they happily doted over their children. Likewise, men were shown pulling up to their suburban home from a hard day’s work, happy to have a meal prepared for them by their wives. Meanwhile, due to consolidation of family farms, white men and women in the Northern Great Plains states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska searched for alternative ways to stay afloat and navigated away from the traditional ideals being portrayed to the public in the 1950s. Many women in these states found their suitable roles working outside of the home to support their families and contribute to their communities. Other chose to remain single, further contradicting gender role expectations. Men would likewise challenge the national image of masculinity as they increasingly engaged in domestic roles at home. The reality of life in the Great Plains contradicted the image of traditional gender roles popularized in national media. On the local level, advertising and newspaper columns in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska responded to these changing gender roles. Drawing on primary sources such as advertisements and reports in local newspapers, this thesis argues that Great Plains media shaped expectations for traditional gender roles on the one hand while reflecting the reality of economic and social change on the other. In navigating traditional perceptions of gender in the 1950s, local media for men and women in the Great Plains sent mixed messages about gender roles, laying the foundation for considerable changes in the 1960s and beyond.



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