Role of Men in the 1950s

Written by taylor thorn
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Role of Men in the 1950s
Growing prosperity was a hallmark of the 1950s. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

The 1950s are often viewed as a golden era in American history. With rising wages and home ownership, many of the returning WWII vets found a comfortable life that was unknown to most of their parents. The GI Bill and a strong manufacturing sector allowed an unprecedented amount of Americans to enter the middle class. However, the 1950s were also a time of strict gender roles as well as racism and segregation. The prevailing gender roles greatly influenced the role of men in society.

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The Breadwinner

Men in the 1950s were the expected breadwinners of the household. Although the workforce included more women than in previous generations, men still overwhelmingly outnumbered women in the workplace. A man was expected to earn enough on one salary to support his wife and children. This was possible during the 1950s for both white and blue collar men, thanks to high rates of unionisation and rising wages.

Husband Ran Household

Men in the 1950s were expected to marry young. Many men married while just out of high school. Divorce was rare due to social stigmas, so most couples remained married until death. Men were expected to be loving husbands. However, the role of men also dictated that they were the unquestioned rulers of their households. This meant that financial decisions were nearly always made by the husband. This is due, in part, to the fact that men typically were the sole wage earners in the household.


Men in the 1950s typically fathered multiple children. This was expected by society as families with two or more children were seen as the American ideal. The father of the 1950s was seen largely as the disciplinarian, while the mother was seen as the nurturer of children. The father was also charged with rearing the male children to become strong men, leaving their daughters to learn domestic skills from their mothers.

Social Institutions

The absence of women in the workforce left nearly all social institutions in the hands of men, and especially white men. Examples of this include higher education, the police, the military, religion and politics. This meant that, in large part, it was men who dictated culture and society in America. This manufactured a noticeable male bias in many aspects of American life, including the belief that women could not do many of the same activities and jobs as men.

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