Monday, March 21, 2016

Sleeping Beauty and the Working Women of 1959

The 1950's is often cited as one of the best decades to have lived and/or grown up in. Who hasn't watched Happy Days or Grease and felt the nostalgia of life in the '50's? Disney released Sleeping Beauty in 1959, near the end of this iconic decade. So, how well does Princess Aurora represent the women of 1959?

Vogel, H. (Hermann) (1856-1918)
While many women entered the workforce during World War II, the most common job held by a woman in 1959 was that of housewife and mother. Women did work outside the home, including as nurses and teachers, but they didn't have the same job choices as the women of today have. Few were doctors, professors, or business executives--positions many women hold in today's society.

By Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M (Flickr: Data Processing Machine) 
Keeping these norms in mind, I think Aurora is a good representation of the women of this decade. Her parents' goal is to marry her off so she can raise a family of her own. Now, being royal, Aurora lives a privileged life and doesn't have to work. But, while hiding away with the fairies in the woods, we see her performing the more traditional housekeeping role that has become associated with women from this time period.

If Disney's was making this film today, I don't see where there would be many differences to the tale. They didn't change much of Aurora's role from the story told by Perrault, so unless you recast the roles so that the princess saves the prince, Aurora would remain pretty much as she is.

Do you think Aurora was a good representation of women in 1959? What changes do you see being made if the movie release today? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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