my personal inventory...

my personal inventory...

can't sleep.... how many nights are you awake?

i'm sure you have a past...
most of us who aren't happy in our life, have a past that isn't very pretty. Many of us can't seem to put the past away. The reason we can't put the past away is...
.....we have many unresolved emotions & feelings from the past that cause us pain in our present.

when I was at my worst....
I was night eating, not sleeping, experiencing severe anxiety, both generalized & social & was dissociating in the daytime...
I had been living a false reality on the computer...
and suddenly I realized that it just wasn't right...
I had to stop it....
but I didn't know how to.

I was raw. All emotions & feelings were numbed. I needed to get out of my symptoms. I needed to get better. I didn't know what to do....
I had to get it all straight in my head... once and for all.
I never blamed my parents for how they raised me, but one of my most difficult traumas was dealing with the fact that I thought my parents didn't love me.

can't sleep.... how many nights are you awake?

I needed to recover from all of my unhappiness in the worst way.
I made the last ditch effort to find another counselor and it finally paid off. I finally found the right place, the right doctor, the right counselor...
finally I would get what I needed.

I suddenly found a qualified therapist & doctor. Somehow, my persistence paid off & when I went to my initial appointment, they knew...
They knew that I needed meds, that I needed to be diagnosed with post traumatic stress & depression...
they understood about my eating disorder....
they were ready to help me immediately.

I never gave up....

It didn't take too long, about one month, for my symptoms to begin subsiding.

Suddenly there was the tiniest speck of light shining in the distance. My world had been so dark, so lonely & just so pretend. I hadn't been able to cope with me, so I had begun to be someone else.
They immediately asked me about meds & I turned them down.
A few appointments later, I had begun to see people sitting in their cars on my street & I was so frightened, thinking that every care with someone sitting in it was my ex-husband who had been abusive & who had wanted to kill me.
I arrived for my next appointment one week later, exhausted from no sleep in days. My counselor had honored my original request for no meds, but the symptoms I was experiencing were making me physically ill, exhausted, manic....
So I got the meds. The meds had some side effects, but it wasn't bad & finally all of those horrible symptoms began to subside. I only felt good for a change, it was wonderful. In about 3 months time, I realized that I was able to think for myself again. It was an explosive revelation! I was so glad to have given in to the meds. I needed them.

I began to calm down.

I began to realize that therapy was all about learning how to help yourself. I suddenly understood that I would have to do all the work myself. I was energized with hope in learning this & began researching mental health, lifestyle & ever close association to those subjects I might think of at the time.
I began researching things on the internet. I had recently been given a computer & I was teaching myself how to use it. I thought about all the searching I had to do & it occurred to me one day:
If it hadn't been for the fact that I had finally given in to taking the meds, I would be "chin high" in sleep deprivation, anxiety, panic attacks, dissociating & depression. I would never have had the energy to search as I had been doing for several weeks. I wanted to make a website so people could just go to one site * find everything they needed to know. Soon I decided to start a website. The first one being, anxiety understanding!
I was learning so much. I wanted to help everyone out there find the same thing I was finding. Personal Growth...
Recovery... Answers... So much that was good!

I was beginning to get more clarity of thought.

Working with the websites was a good thing for me.

But because I was overwhelmed with such an intense need to know, "WHY".... why had all those terrible things happened to me throughout my lifetime?" What had I done to deserve it all? I had never wanted to blame my parents. I didn't want to blame anyone, I just really didn't understand about any of it. There was so much to learn.

My grown children had me doing some soul searching as to why they had to experience the things they did. They began to come up with the nerve to ask me - why hadn't I left my ex-husband who was physically, mentally & verbally abusive to us all?

Why  did I divorce their father?

why?, why?, why? - they had no problem asking me questions concerning what they believed to be the source of their own mental anguishes....

I found it extremely frustrating that they didn't understand that none of what happened was intentional.... it just happened.. & I was just beginning at age 45 to understand....


 why it all happened.

I was beginning to understand, develop empathy for others & for my own self.  Suddenly I realized that "I" was an important reason to find happiness for myself instead of finding someone that might "make me happy."


Then I realized... my parents did what they knew how to do & they didn't know why they did the things they did to me either....


I couldn't, didn't want to or never thought of blaming my parents for ending up married 4 times, being unknowingly emotionally abused as a child, lacking love & affection - & so many other things... for the traumas that I'd experienced & was never allowed to resolve my feelings & emotions concerning them .... & ultimately the traumas I'd experienced throughout my life as the escalation of my anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder & depression occurred & the lack of self esteem combined with the family's acceptance of the abusive men I grew up with & then later, invited into my life...


this may sound like rambling to you, but to me... well... it was all becoming so very clear...

I felt that the only thing left to do - was to take it all - bit by bit - write it all down - figure it all out - feel the unresolved emotions, realize the magnitude of the dilemma my mother was in while we were growing up, now knowing that it was exactly what i had experienced in my own generation, my own time, in my own way.... & eventually begin to heal from it all...

what i found out was how important it was for me to stop all the abuse - all the family dysfunction - for my children - to learn enough myself - take responsibility for my own children & my own life & my own actions. i needed to teach them what my mother & i didn't know, to end the cycle of abuse, allow them to live a happy & fulfilling life...

I began to recognize my needs. I never realized there were things that "I" needed. I was developing my natural sense of curiosity as well.

Yeah, I'm a baby boomer... this may account for the fact that I'd been experiencing mental health issues since childhood!

What does that mean?

What does that mean?

A small voice that was growing larger... consistently larger... louder... inside of me kept asking questions.

I had never been the type of person to ask questions. All of my inquiries in childhood were "squashed" because children were to be seen only... not listened to....not heard...I was never old enough to understand, but now...

I was learning that I was responsible for answering my own questions. I was old enough to do that... I was able to do that for myself. I knew that I needed to validate every thing that happened to me, or the things that I experienced.

I needed this because my father had always told me that I was too consumed with my self. He told me that this was wrong. He told me that I was the least important person in the world. It made me feel this small.

My family came from upstate New York. My parents were high school sweethearts. Their parents were the typical first generation Americans of their time; with their parents coming from Europe.

My mother's mother married my grandfather when she was only 15 years old. It's amazing that they would have been married over 60 years if my grandfather had lived only one more year.

My mother's family came from Czechoslovakia or so we thought. When my grandfather died, my mother found his baptisimal record which said that he & his family were really from Hungary.

None of us knew that, maybe my grandmother knew, but it was probably one of those things that no one needs to talk about. Family secrets.... I thought about the "tight lipped women in my family ..... when I heard it... good old family secrets.

My father's family was from Canada. My father's father lived to be 99 years old & his 2nd wife, my grandmother, lived well into her 90's.

They were a strange couple. My grandfather had been bald & retired since before I had been born; no one told me until I was in my forties that he had been a redhead. That gave me a clue... "an insight" into my father's family. A hot tempered red head, that was rough with the discipline. I never knew him to be anything but kind, but that's what grandchildren are supposed to know of their grandparents.

But somewhere in that lineage were reasons for very abusive behaviors. It's strange that my mother didn't think I needed to know any of this until I was in my forties. Her thinking would always be strange to me & still is to this day.

There were some problems in my family history. My father's mother had a father who was an alcoholic. It was a severe problem, that caused violence within the home. (aha...I'm thinking to myself... domestic violence...)

And so I understood suddenly....

There was never any alcohol allowed in my grandmother's house on my father's side for that reason alone. But as I just mentioned above, my grandfather on my father's side, must have been abusive with his discipline practices with his sons. I say that because each one of his sons were abusive to their wives & children. I saw it regularly. No one every said anything about it or did anything to stop it.

Now on my mother's side, my grandmother had told me of the time she had to report to an attorney friend of my grandfathers. He was a member of the same country club that my grandparents joined. She had reported my grandfather to this attorney friend, because he had been physically abusive to my grandmother. I'm not sure if he had been abusive to his girls, of which they had four. But something desperate had happened.

One of my aunts has always had a mental health problem. I believe it was part anxiety and partly a personality disorder, such as DID. The other three sisters were evenly matched in temperment, my mother was the oldest. There was quite abit of drinking in that house. My grandfather would go to the bar on his way home from work and visit with his friends. I can remember as a little girl him taking me there. It was dark, dirty and had a pool table in it. I would sit at the bar and get Shirley Temple's with a maraschino cherry on the side!

With each recollection of trauma or dysfunction or abuse in my life, I separated them, studied them, reflected upon the emotions & feelings that had been so long unresolved within me due to these experiences. A strange sense of intuition was telling me - and I was listening - that this was the correct path for me to follow.

we moved several times when I was still very young....


My parents never told us about what was going on in our lives - in those early years - well I'm understating this fact....


they never told us what was going on in the world, in our home, or with any of our family members.


What I did know, I had to discover for myself. I was raised in the days that - "children were to be seen & not heard." We were non-entities. We weren't allowed to make noise, express ourselves in any way, we were to be invisable, we weren't supposed to have any feelings or emotions. We were trained to lie because according to our parents, " Everything was always - fine." No matter how bad you felt, if you were sick, injured, sad, mad or just fearful of something - if someone asked how things were going, "Everything is just fine." was the only allowable answer.


I was the "queen of eavesdropping." I was allowed to "hang around" just a tiny bit more than any of my cousins, because I was the oldest. Everyone loved me or tolerated me, at least for just a little while. 


My relatives would often allow me to stay near them, within earshot anyway - which meant "present in the room" while they chatted & gossiped about whatever it was they decided was the topic of the times.


And so I lived on bits & pieces of juicy tidbits about everyone in my family & formed definite ideas & beliefs on the information that I had gathered in this fashion. It was "listening in" that clued me into the most fascinating fact of all.... my mother had been a twin! No one had ever spoken about this in any other way but hushed whispers, but one day I was close enough to hear it. I was mesmerized with this knowledge. I'm not sure why, but I was.

"Whatever trouble he's in, his family has the right to share it w/him. It's our duty to help him if we can & it's his duty to let us & he doesn't have the privilege to change that."

Jarrod Barkley
The Big Valley

My grandmother's heart was broken when my grandfather died. She soon lost her will to live. Two out of four of her daughters allowed her to have her dying wish, which was to die in her bed at home. They lived a long life, but I think it should have been longer. They lived a good life, but I believe it could have been better. They're missed, that's for sure.

On some of my countless visits to my grandparents, my cousins would be there also. My mother's sister was married to my father's brother & had children that were the closest in age to me, yet they were still too young for me to hang around with - not playmate material at all for me. In fact, I was responsible for watching the cousins - all of the time. These cousins were often at my grandparents' house at the same time we were because they lived closest to them and they took care of whatever my grandparents needed help with.


However, I was exposed to the adult's interactions very frequently in those days. My father's brother just happened to be my favorite uncle. He treated me extra special & would sing with me when we went on car trips together. My mom often sent me to their house to spend overnight times with them - often for two weeks at a time. It was really fun except for one thing.


My uncle drank a lot of beer; lots & lots of beer. He was also very abusive to his children. when he got drunk from all that beer he would lose control totally & get really mad at his kids. He was especially likely to pick on his oldest son. I felt so bad for him. Every remark my uncle made was sarcastic & cruel to him. If my cousin didn't act quickly enough for him, he would throw him down on the ground & oftentimes kick him around with heavy steel toed boots he wore.


He was always yelling at the kids & one time he chased one of my girl cousins down the stairs because she had made him very angry. On the stairway he got a hold of her hair & she kept running. She was so afraid of him. He pulled out a huge chunk of her hair. It scared me when he got so mean, but he would turn around & be so nice to me in the next breath after abusing his own kids.


I couldn't understand it at all. All my grandparents knew he acted like this as well as my aunt & no one would do anything about it. His oldest son began to act strangely, often rocking back & forth on his feet when he talked. He was very afraid of his father. He cowered from him whenever he was in his presence. All the kids were, but he was the most affected because of the sharp cruel comments he continually spewed out at him. He was a very sad boy most of the time and I saw the way he looked at me when his father was interacting with me kindly. I just felt guilty and confused.


I was allowed to walk across town to my other grandmother's house as soon as I was able to remember the way. At first, it seemed so far. It was a journey. I remember my grandmother saying to me upon my arrival, "Oh murder, Kathleen! I thought you'd never get here!"


I had met my landmarks though. I walked past my grandfather's brother's house and I believed that his wife was probably calling my grandmother to let her know that I had passed safely without getting lost. They didn't fear kidnapping or getting hit by a car. They feared I would get lost. Besides, my mother's mother was always nervous about things. I didn't care if I got lost. I was adventurous right from the beginning of my life. I liked walking by myself. I liked being independent. I could think about things when I was alone.


She, my grandmother, told me one day when I was sitting on her knee and she had her arm around me, that she took little nerve pills. I believe she was one of the first to be addicted to valium. Who knows what she took before valium, but no wonder she was always so pleasant and even tempered. She never got mad at me, not once in her whole life, except once when I was 18 years old. I had moved in with my boyfriend, who would become my first husband and she was totally against that. She wrote me a letter to tell me so.


This one of my grandmothers was my "love connection." it was here that I received all the love & affection I could soak in. I was always ready for it. I would sit on her lap and she would rock me in her recliner chair and sing to me.


"Oh pretty playmate, come out and play with me, climb up my apple tree, hee hee hee hee hee, climb on the rain barrel, slide down my cellar door, and we'll be jolly friends, forever more."


"Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy boy, Billy boy; can she bake a cherry pie, charmmmin Billy? She can bake a cherry pie, quick as you can wink your eye, she's a young girl, who cannot leave her mother."


Over and over these songs were whispered in my ear as I laid my head against her chest and listened intently. I never wanted to leave her lap. She rocked me like that until I was too big to sit on her anymore. I was at least ten years old when that stopped. But there were always hugs and always cuddles in her bed in the morning if I had spent the night with her.


She let me get into bed with her and she would put on a record. Usually some cowboy record, she loved country music. We would lay in bed together and she would let me touch her things in her nightstand. My favorite was her penlight flashlight. i would hold it up against my hand on the inside and be able to see my veins through my skin! i loved doing that.


She would laugh at me and we would talk and tell secrets with each other. She was the best grandma in the whole world.


We moved to Syracuse, New York when I was in the 3rd grade. That’s when all hell broke loose.


Yes, Syracuse....


My dad had gotten a job at general electric. When we moved to Syracuse, my mom quit the "stay at home" job she had & she got a job at some kind of catholic girl's school or orphanage - something to that effect.


There were nuns there. When we were sick, we had to go there w/my mother & stay in the infirmary & get taken care of by the nuns, who by the way, wore the customary black & white habits. They scared me to death. They looked & sounded very mean.


I was in the 3rd grade. While I remember my kindergarten teacher's name was Miss Valentine, I can't remember any of my teacher's names there after. we went to Lincoln elementary school & i lived on Shuart Avenue. So any of you who lived there in the 1960's - you were my neighbor!


We rented a big old house that had 2 stories & then an attic. The basement always frightened me because it had a cabinet in it on the wall that had a picture of President Kennedy in it. He was shot to death soon after we moved there. It seemed like everytime I went down there the cabinet door was open and he was staring at me. After he was shot, I was of course, thinking of him as a ghost & I knew he could see me when I went down there...


....it was totally spooky.


Lots of things happened when I lived in Syracuse that traumatized me. Really. Living in the city was far more exciting than the country. Although the excitement was usually a bit negative, there was never a dull moment.


The Kennedy assassination was a really big deal. We were let out of school. Everyone was talking about it. The news came over the loud speaker at school. Everyone was shocked, crying & almost hysterical about it upon hearing the news.


Death was a mystery to me. My mom didn't think that kids needed to be thinking about it. Kids weren't allowed to go to funeral homes or funerals either.

I went to stay at my grandmother's house because we were out of school. I watched the funeral with my grandmother. Everyone kept saying, "Those poor little kids...." I was intrigued with the ceremony of it all. The shooting part of it was completely frightening to me & I can remember thinking about the President's brains blown out all over his wife in that convertible.

I kept picturing that in my mind. I didn't know what that would really look like, but I knew it would be horrible.

Everywhere you went you'd hear adults talking about the President getting shot. Everytime I heard the story, I'd replay the pictures that I had seen on the news when President Kennedy got shot and the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, crawled out the back of the convertable and was trying to escape the particles of brain that was all over her nice clothes and probably her hat and even her skin, I'd think.

I also thought about all the adult suppositions that went on in every conversation. They all had a different theory and seldom agreed on what they believed really happened. There was one story going around that President Kennedy was really still alive. They said that he was alive, but the press lied about it to protect him from being found and shot again. Then there were others who said that he didn't have a brain left, but they could keep him alive. No one wanted to think about that.


Caroline Kennedy & i have the same birthday. That’s right, even the same year. We were the exact same age. Little John John, what everyone called him, saluted to his father's coffin. That made me cry. I didn't cry much, because my father would threaten us about giving us something to cry about when we did.

To get a feel of what work I've done & why I've chosen to share it with you.... in my own personal journey thru recovery, long before dr. phil came up with a system similar to this, I realized that although I wasn't in the habit of casting blame on anyone for my poor mental health, I certainly had some "ideas" about why I've experienced what I did throughout my lifetime & why the state of my mental health was so poor.

As an adult, I've continued to have a relationship with my family, but have always lived at least 1500 miles away from them. There was some time, when my sister lived with my ex-husband & myself, but for the most part.... I've never had a family support system in my adult life to help me thru the difficulties I always seemed to encounter.

As my mind has become clearer (gaining clarity) as the result of my medications prescribed by my doctor at counseling, began to relieve the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, depression, as well as the continuation of my therapy sessions - I began to write down everything I could remember about my life.

What was amazing about this exercise was that when I remembered enough to write something down, another event would begin to emerge into my concious memory. It was almost as if someone was in the "attic of my memory warehouse" dusting cobwebs off my childhood memory files & sliding them towards me to grasp a hold of.

First of all, I had to know why my parents were the people they were. Just like I was a product of my upbringing, they were a product of theirs. So I began to research what life was like in the 1950's when my mother and father would have been in school. I was born after they married, in 1957.

the good life

In the 50's, society had returned to a peacetime existence...but something was different!

  • There were more families, thanks to the "baby boom"
  • The general population was attaining a higher level of education, thanks in part to the G.I. Bill, which made it possible for war veterans to go to college
  • The G.I. Bill also insured mortgage lenders against loss, which made it easier for veterans to purchase homes
  • The prospering economy allowed people to buy more luxury goods

As a result, young families w/an eye to the future started to move out of the crowded cities.

The "baby boom" was in full swing....more people were getting married & having children than ever before. In the ideal family of the 50's, dad brought home the paycheck, mom did the cooking & cleaning & the kids were respectful (click on respect) & well-behaved.


For a long time, the average age at which young people first got married hovered around 24 for men & 21 for women. By the 50's, this figure had fallen to 22 for men & 20 for women.

There were several reasons for this phenomenon. During the war years, couples who might normally have waited to get married were faced with a climate of uncertainty. They began getting married sooner, often on an impulse...after all, who knew what the future would bring?


The optimism of the postwar years created a desire to "get back to normal" & what could be more normal than marrying & settling down? In addition, couples often postponed marriage & children during poor economic times, but now that the economy was good, they felt they were ready.

Together, these factors sent couples down the aisle in increasing numbers & at younger ages.

Traditional Family Values

Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do

"Your family, my family - which is composed of an immediate family of a wife & 3 children, a larger family with grandparents & aunts & uncles."

Vice President Dan Quayle

Those of us who grew up in the 1950's got an image of the American family that wasn't, shall we say,


We were told, Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver & Ozzie & Harriet weren't just the way things were supposed to be, but the way things were.

Things were not that way.

It's probably good that life wasn't like the television shows in the '50s - we wouldn't have many women now. Take a look at the ratio of boys to girls on the most popular family shows.

  • Ozzie & Harriet had 2 boys, 0 girls.

  • Leave It to Beaver had 2 boys, 0 girls.

  • Rifleman had 1 boy, 1 rifle, 0 girls.

  • Lassie had 1 boy, one dog (supposedly a girl, but played by a boy) & 0 girls.

  • My Three Sons had - well, that one's obvious.

  • Bonanza had 3 grown-up boys.

  • Although Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz in real life had 1 boy & 1 girl, on I Love Lucy they had 1 boy.

  • The only shows with daughters were The Donna Reed Show (1 boy, 1 girl) & that lighthouse to womanhood despite its title....

  • Father Knows Best (1 boy, 2 girls).

Grown to maturity, that's a late -1960's dating population of 15 men to 3 women.

  • Almost all the households were mama-papa-kiddies: the nuclear family.

(The exceptions were My Three Sons & Bonanza: Steve Douglas [Fred MacMurray] & Ben Cartwright were widowers.)

  • There were no prior marriages
  • No children from prior relationships
  • No threat or even thought of divorce
  • The closest thing we saw to physical abuse was Ralph Kramden's, "One of these days, Alice, one of these days . . to the moon!"
  • There were no infidelities
  • No drinking problems
  • No drugs

(not even prescription tranquilizers)

  • no racism

(How could there be? With the exception of Hop Sing & Ricky Ricardo, there was only 1 race; even the Hispanic gardener on Father Knows Best was named Frank Smith)

  • There was no dropping out of school
  • No political discussion

(much less political differences)

  • No unemployment

(except for Ozzie's early retirement)

  • No severe economic problem

(except for a crop failure on Lassie, when they had to sell all the livestock, including Lassie; but just before being carted off, Lassie pawed the ground & struck oil & everything was okay again. Except for Lassie, who looked as though the Exxon Valdez had dumped its forward holding tanks on her)

  • The father was the breadwinner
  • The mother was the bread maker

(the only mother who came close to working was Lucy, becoming the spokeswoman for Vitavita-Vegimen or that afternoon at the candy factory)

  • There was no fear of the bomb

(which is what we kids were terrified about in the '50's)

  • No severe disobedience

(although white lies, mischief & misunderstandings were needed for laughs)

  • Life was wholesome, wholesome, wholesome.[*FN]

As much as the religious right likes to point to 1950's sitcom wholesomeness as the Ideal American Family, these shows, in fact, had a remarkable lack of religion.

What religion were these people? They certainly weren't Jewish. And, other than possibly Ricky Ricardo, none of them was Catholic.

They were probably safely mainline Presbyterians.

But that was the name of the game: play it safe. In playing it safe, there was less mention of God & religion on these shows than actually took place in American families in the '50's.

That life doesn't exist anymore.


But then, it never did.

When I was a boy, my family took great care w/our snapshots. We really planned them. We posed in front of expensive cars, homes that weren't ours. We borrowed dogs. Almost every family picture taken of us when I was young had a different borrowed dog in it.



In her book, The Way We Never Were, Stephanie Coontz explains,  

"Pessimists argue that the family is collapsing; optimists counter that it's merely diversifying. Too often, both camps begin with an ahistorical, static notion of what "the" family was like before the contemporary period.  

Thus we have one set of best sellers urging us to reaffirm traditional family values in an era of "family collapse" & another promising to set us free from traditional family traps if we can only turn off "old tapes" & break out of old ruts. . . .  

The actual complexity of our history - even of our own personal experience - gets buried under the weight of an idealized image.

 Families have always been in flux & often in crisis; they have never lived up to nostalgic notions about "the way things used to be."  

Here are some facts about "the good old days": 

  •  In 1960, 1 in 3 children lived in poverty.

  • Fewer than 1/2 the students who entered high school in the late 1940's ever finished.

  • The US has had the highest homicide rate in the industrial world for almost 150 years.

  • From 1950 to 1959, 257,455 cases of polio were reported, mostly in children; 11,957 died of it.

  • In 1940, 1 American child in 10 didn't live with either birth parent. Today the figure is 1 in 25.

  • More couples reported their marriage "happy" in 1977 than did in 1957.  (The "happy marriage" index dropped slightly by the late 1980's, but still remained higher than it was in 1957.)

  • A woman over 35 has a better chance of marrying today than she did in the 1950's.

  • In the mid-1950's, 25% of the population lived below the poverty line.

  • In 1958, 60% of the population over 65 had incomes below $1,000.

  • In the 1950's, 1/3 of the white, native-born families couldn't get by with the income of only 1 working parent.

  • In the 1950's, racism was deeply institutionalized. 50% of black families lived below the poverty line; migrant workers suffered appalling working & living conditions; people of color weren't permitted to take part in the American dream.

  • In 1952, there were 2,000,000 more wives working outside the home than there were at the peak of wartime production.

  • Women who failed to conform to the June Cleaver / Margaret Anderson role of housewife & mother were severely criticized.

A 1947 bestselling book, The Modern Woman, called feminism a "deep illness," labeled the idea of an independent woman a "contradiction in terms" & explained that women who wanted equal pay & equal educational opportunities were engaged in a "ritualistic castration" of men.

  • Women were often denied the right to serve on juries, convey property, make contracts (including leases on apartments) & establish credit in their own names (including mortgages & credit cards). 

  •  Men who failed to marry were considered immature, selfish or homosexual. A man without a wife found it difficult finding work or getting promoted. 

  • Unmarried men & women were routinely paid less than married men & women because, it was explained, their needs were less.

  • The witch hunts against communists extended to homosexuals & other political & social "deviants."

  • During the 1950's, 2,611 civil servants were fired as "security risks"; 4,315 resigned while being "investigated."

  • In her book, Private Lives: Men & Women of the '50's, Benita Eisler quotes film producer Joel Schumacher: "No one told the truth. People pretended they weren't unfaithful. They pretended they weren't homosexual. They pretended they weren't horrible." The uniformity we sense about the '50's, with everyone happily "fitting in," was, in fact, a great number of frightened people pretending to fit in - & pretending to enjoy it.

  • A "sure cure" for homosexuality for either men or women was marriage.

This myth was propagated not just by popular culture, but by psychologists & psychiatrists as well. When marriage failed to be the "cure," as it always did, having a child would surely take care of the problem. When that didn't work, a 2nd child was "prescribed." When that didn't work, well, the least you could do is pretend to be heterosexual & do your duty - for your children's sake.

  • Congress discussed nearly 200 bills to deal with the problem of "juvenile delinquency" in 1955 - the year Rebel Without a Cause was released.

  • Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America of 1958, revealed in 1991 that her wealthy, respectable father had sexually violated her from age 5 until 18.

  • Alcoholism soared in the 1950's.

  • Wife-beating wasn't really considered a crime. Many psychologists explained that battered wives were masochists who provoked their husbands into beating them.

  • A husband raping his wife wasn't a crime at all, but a sign that the woman was deficient in fulfilling her marital obligations.

  • 1/2 of the marriages that began in the 1950's ended in divorce.

  • During the 1950's, more than 2,000,000 legally married people lived separately.

  • Staying together "for the children" surpassed baseball as the national pastime.

  • Far from Beaver & Wally telling Ward & June carefully edited versions of their daily adventures over the dinner table, more often the evening meal was a TV dinner on a TV tray in front of the TV.

  • What the TV couldn't numb, tranquilizers could. A New Yorker cartoon illustrated a 1950's couple, floating down the river in a gondola, surrounded by beautiful flowers, singing birds & playful butterflies.

The husband asks the wife, "What was the name of that tranquilizer we took?" In 1958, 462,000 pounds of tranquilizers were consumed in the US. A year later, consumption had more than tripled to 1.5 million pounds.

  • By the end of the 1950's, when Redbook asked readers to supply examples for an upcoming article, "Why Young Mothers Feel Trapped," they received 24,000 replies.

  • The number of pregnant brides more than doubled in the 1950's.

  • In 1957, there were more than twice as many births to girls aged 15 to 19 than in 1983. my birth year!

  • The number of illegitimate babies put up for adoption rose 80% from 1944 to 1955.

Ms. Coontz concludes, "The historical record is clear on one point: Although there are many things to draw on in our past, there's no one family form that has ever protected people from poverty or social disruption & no traditional arrangement that provides a workable model for how we might organize family relations in the modern world."

  • Depending on whose statistics you read, today the traditional nuclear family represents anywhere from 6% to less than 50% of the American population. One can fiddle with the statistics endlessly.

  • Should the household have only the male as the breadwinner?

  • Should there be no one living in the household except the mother, father & children?

  • Should the household be in a single-family house, or will an apartment do?

  • Does a couple living alone without children count?

  • However we look at it, the point is clear: even taking the most generous estimate, today more than 1/2 the country lives outside a nuclear family.

  • You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives ...

"A man of low morality is a menace to the government, whatever he is & they are all tied up together."

Senator Wherry in New York Post, 1950

It may come as a surprise that the gay movement not only began in the 1950's, but that its founders were former communists & radicals.  

Harry Hay, who wrote the first call for a gay movement in 1948, had been a party member for 20 years, active in labor organizing & cultural work. The fact that these organizers had already spent most of their lives outside the mainstream no doubt prepared them for the risks involved in forming a gay organization.  

The modern gay movement in America began in Los Angeles, a city that symbolized the mobile, affluent lifestyle of Americans after the War.  

The Mattachine Foundation (to be distinguished from the post-1953 Mattachine Society) was formed in the winter of 1950 by a group of 7 gay men gathered together by Hay. 

The name refers to the medieval Mattachines, troupes of men who traveled from village to village, taking up the cause of social justice in their ballads & dramas.  

By sharing & analyzing their personal experience as gay men, the Mattachine founders radically redefined the meaning of being gay & devised a comprehensive program for cultural & political liberation.

In 1951, Mattachine began sponsoring discussion groups. Years before women's consciousness-raising groups, Mattachine provided lesbians & gay men a similar opportunity to share openly, for the first time, their feelings & experiences.

The meetings were emotional & cathartic. From 1950 to 1953 attendance snowballed. Soon discussion groups were meeting throughout California. As Dorr Legg described it, The thing was growing.  

Never was there a mass movement in America like it. There were tens of thousands of people in the L.A. area involved with it.... You could go to a Mattachine meeting every night of every week, year in & out. Groups began to sponsor social events, fundraisers, newsletters & publications.

In April 1951, Mattachine adopted a Statement of Missions & Purposes. This encompassing vision of gay liberation stands out in the history of the movement because it incorporated 2 important themes. 

First, Mattachine called for a grassroots movement of gay people to challenge anti-gay discrimination. At the same time, the organization recognized the importance of building community:  

Mattachine holds it possible & desirable that a highly ethical homosexual culture emerge, as a consequence of its work, paralleling the emerging cultures of our fellow-minorities . . . the Negro, Mexican & Jewish peoples.

This ideal of a gay cultural & political community with a unique place in democratic society linked Mattachine to Whitman's vision of a hundred years earlier.

The discussion groups proved effective in building gay consciousness. In 1952, the Mattachine founders pushed forward into political action. That spring, when one of the original members of the group was entrapped by the Los Angeles vice squad, Mattachine decided to mobilize the community & challenge the case in court.

Under the auspices of the Citizen's Committee to Outlaw Entrapment, Mattachine hired a lawyer, raised funds, published newsletters & distributed leaflets. When the jury was unable to reach a verdict & the case was dismissed, Mattachine claimed victory. An acknowledged homosexual had beaten the vice squad & been acquitted in court!

Encouraged by this success, Mattachine took an even bolder step the following year. In 1953, the group sent questionnaires to local political candidates, asking them to state their positions on gay rights issues.

In March, a local newspaper columnist wrote an article about this "strange new pressure group," noting that Mattachine's lawyer had been unfriendly when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Of course, at this time McCarthy's anti-communist witch hunt was at its peak.

The article set off a panic among Mattachine members, who were horrified at the thought of their activities being linked to communism. 

In the controversy that followed, 2 conventions were held & opposing sides took shape. These conventions were unprecedented public meetings of gay people, attended by delegates representing hundreds of discussion group participants.

Conservative delegates questioned the organization's stated goals, challenging the idea that gay people were a minority. They claimed such an approach would only encourage hostility. Mattachine board members, however, argued that - "we must disenthrall ourselves of the idea that we differ only in our sexual directions & that all we want or need in life is to be free to seek the expression of our sexual desires."

While efforts to adopt anti-communist resolutions failed at the conventions, the original leadership was shaken.

They, too, feared the consequences of a government investigation of Mattachine activities, which would expose the identity of members & destroy the movement. So, in May 1953, the founders resigned, turning the movement over to the conservatives.

Unfortunately, the new leadership shared none of the vision or experience of the original founders. They drastically revised the goals of the organization, backtracking in every area. Instead of social change, they advocated accommodation.

Instead of mobilizing gay people, they sought the support of professionals, who they believed held the key to reform. They stated, "We don't advocate a homosexual culture or community & we believe none exists."

The results were devastating. Discussion group attendance fell & groups folded. The small core of members that remained, in San Francisco & other cities, invited psychiatrists to speak to them & sat patiently thru the homophobic diatribes of these "experts," to prove their "impartiality." As Barbara Gittings said,

"At first we were so grateful just to have people, anybody, pay attention to us that we listened to everything they said, no matter how bad it was....

It was essential for us to go thru this before we could arrive at what we now consider our much more sensible attitudes." 

Will Roscoe

The most active period of social movement rhetoric in the 20th century was the 1960's. This period roughly begins w/a build-up from the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court Decision of 1954.

This desegregation decision began the Civil Rights movement. By 1960, multiple movements are gathering steam in the US.

After 1970 & the Kent State killings, social movements began to decline & by the fall of Saigon that ended the Vietnam War in 1975 the most active period was over.

Of course, movements continue to our day just as there have always been some active reform movements in America. But the most active period was over.

The 1960's were the richest era of social movements since the 1830's. There were many significant movements active in the decade that dramatically changed many aspects of American life & altered the direction of American political activity.

Members often were members of multiple movements, but there were also intense followers of particular causes.

Among the significant movements were:

Movements for African American identity & power. In 2 basic movements, one for identity & one for integrative power, African Americans sought public voice.

The Black Power Movement was a search for a distinctive identity as Black Americans & creating the place for socializing the common experience of oppression.

The Civil Rights Movement sought to provide access to the ballot box & the economic world that were the sources of power in established American power.

Peace Movements. In the midst of the Cold War, with the advent of nuclear weapons & the stark reality of body bags returning from Vietnam, a cluster of movements sought to oppose the use of institutional violence by political power.

This cluster began with the "Ban the Bomb" movement of the 1950's & with the increased American involvement in Vietnam gained massive power in opposition to the war.

Women's Movements. Most dominantly, feminism, this cluster of movements moved women ought of the privacy of the home as their domain & into public life.

The commonality of women's expreriences became the basis of an identity movement. The unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment movement became an integrative movement for women's access to the economy & to government.

Lifestyle Movements. A loosely controlled movement based in music & lifestyle liberalized the rigidity of American culture, created multiple new forms of expression & changed many of the ways Americans lived their lives from living arrangements to clothing styles.

Many of these movements were about the rules by which communication could be transacted in the culture. But basic issues of what sort of deviant cultural practices would be tolerated were also at stake.

Institutional Reform Movements. From churches to the system of higher education, the 60's were marked by many movements that sought fundamental change in the power relationships in institutions beyond politics.

A traditional source of such movements in the past, labor, was left out, but change swept thru most of the other major institutions of American life.

Many of these changes were egalitarian, opening the power structure of the institutions to broader participation.

Movements for Voice. In the atmosphere of the decade, the attraction of a crowd & the power of a bullhorn transformed common experiences of all types into new identities.

So strong was the pattern of the social movement that by the 1980's, even those who had opposed the social movements of the 1960's, such as the fundamentalist church, embraced the form & sought to enhance their own power & identity by declaring themselves movements.

Sixties' Movements used diverse media

Music. The relatively cheap production of phonograph records & later tapes & the potential for gathering people at a concert, meant that music was a important media for this movement.

Songs such as Bob Dylan's "The Times they are a'changin'" were key rhetorical artifacts supporting 60s movement activities. The joint performance of music was a powerful ritual uniting members of a movement.

Mass Rallies. Diverse arrays of speakers appeared at mass rallies. Voices enhanced by bullhorns & public address systems diffused the words. Chants of slogans, singing of songs & call-response (audience reaction to speeches) provided communicative experiences that united the movement, developed pride in its power & celebrated the rhetoric that energized its members.

Institutional Sites. Two institutional sites were particularly important to diffusion of the rhetoric of movements in the 1960's.

The Black churches of the South provided an institutional home for the civil rights movement & to a lesser extent the Black Power movement. These churches provided both a public space where meetings & rallies could be held & a leadership structure that could maximize the power of the movement to organize energies of its members.

The college campuses were a second institutional site. This site was important because it provided a concentration of movement activists, maintained an idealistic commitment to free speech & novelty of ideas & a focus for resistance. Unlike the Black churches, the leaders of colleges & universities resisted the movements of the 60's & in many cases were targets of the movements.

But the geographical & institutional campus wasn't easily controlled & movements, even those attacking their administrations, thrived in the atmosphere.

The mass media of minor importance. Sixties movements didn't generally use the mass media to diffuse their messages. American mass media were controlled by institutional powers & didn't provide access to leaders of the movements.

Even mass media that tried to provide such voice often selected their own leaders to present to the public at large & these leaders often had no authority w/in the movement. Where the media were important in movements, was television's ability to disseminate stark visual images that expanded the limits of "direct" experience that rhetors for the movement could talk about as a common experience for their members.

For example, a famous photograph of a naked Vietnamese child running down a road in Vietnam w/the flames from an American napalm bomb burning her flesh was stark image of American use of military power. Such images, seen by everyone, became a part of common experience & the stuff of rhetorical proof.

In the 1960s, millions of young people across America rejected the norms of the time for a lifestyle based on radical political & social views.


Many of their philosophies centered around the ideas of peace & love making the world a better place.


The people of this movement had different ideas about drugs, sexual relations & even fashion. They were known as "hippies" & their revolution has left a lasting effect on our country & the world today.

"The times, they are a-changing..."

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