I know everybody already reads Fred and posting a link to him is wasted time, but I feel compelled to post something every day and this is an interesting one.
In 1950 America was conservative, prosperous and, superficially anyway, happy. The war had been won. America had no competition of any kind anywhere. Calm prevailed. The races lived separately with little conflict. Men went to work and women stayed home to raise the kids. The schools saw their job as teaching reading, grammar, spelling, and arithmetic.
Divorce was almost unheard of, bastardy—as it could then be called—close to zero. Drugs, pornography, free love and perversion—as homosexuality was then said to be—were at most distant rumors. Perhaps they could be found in Paris and New York, where such exotics as William Burroughs and Henry Miller abode. These things were mere frissons around the edges.
But change came. Women wearied of substantially empty lives in the suburbs, making peanut butter sandwiches and perhaps secretly drinking themselves silly. They wanted to be lawyers and biologists. It made sense. No moral or legal principle prevented it. Men didn’t want to be Little League slaves, so why should women? The country could use their intelligence. Anyway, it was their business.
So women went wholesale into the workforce. Which meant wholesale out of the home. Thus the latchkeys came into being, unsupervised and wondering whether their parents cared.
Next it was thought desirable to make divorce easier. It was better for all concerned, the thinking ran, to end the union of miserably unhappy couples than to leave them to stew. It made sense. Who wanted to be forever unhappy? Before long, the rate of divorce hit fifty percent.