07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Monday, February 25, 2013

Overheard on... Downton Abbey

By Genre-ista: Deanne Wilsted

Edith dear, you're a woman with a brain and reasonability. Stop whining and find something to do." Lady Violet
Awww, twentieth Century romance; filled with rapidly changing fashions and matching feminine confusion.  If ever there was a set-up for tension this would be it. Men were hunkered down, valiantly trying to hold onto their traditions and roles, while females were pressing against the bounds of society and culture. And in the midst of this, somehow romance would still flourish.

We have come a long way since those golden days. Stay-at-home dads, while not the norm, are certainly observed frequently in my typical suburban neighborhood. And women juggle work and parenting fluidly… texting while watching their son or daughter play soccer. But, the tension is still there, set up by those early days of the 20th C.
Reading this period can give contemporary authors much more depth for their own writing. The transitions that took place during that century hold context for what came before and after. 19th C. romance authors can find the tides that were drawing their heroines into these future battles.

To write romance with any tension at all, we must understand the 20th C. So in March, as the Genre-istas host guest writers of the 20th C, I’d like to use it as a platform for commenting and discussing the tension that stems from such a huge transitional period.
Have you read a particularly poignant 20th C novel, romance or otherwise, that has illuminated this tension? And, where else did we find it during that century? Racial tension, economic tension… there is much ground to cover, so pick an idea and let’s see where it takes us…. As long as you don’t kill off the hero of the show/book;>)


Judith Ashley said...

My thoughts are reflected in your post, Deanne. I was in high school in the 50's and the vestiges of the moral standards you are speaking of were strong. I didn't see women on the news reels at the Saturday matinee nor did I hear their voices on the radio except for commercials - and those were still the exception. Betty Furness was one of the first women to 'sell' appliances.

Dating? We wre taught (yes, in 5th grade health) the girls were responsibility to keep the boys in line. And if you wanted a boyfriend, you had to become someone he would like.

Jobs? Well, we could become teachers which I did, earning $500.00 a month gross at my first teachng job in 1964. Or I could become a secretary - minimum wage was finally $1.00 an hour. And don't forget waitressing where the wage was closer to .25 to .50 an hour plus tips.

My mother went to college to find an educated husband so she would be provided for. I went to college so I'd have a skill to help my family out should something happen to my husband. In some ways, I see my generation as the 'generation between'. Girls were still sent away to their 'aunts' if they became pregnant (of course it was their fault), the boys stayed at home and in school. The standards were not the same - double standard? looking back I'd say it was more like quadruple standards. Today it is more a double standard. Girls and women have many more opportunities and protections than in the 50's and 60's but are still not equal.

One of our guests, Char Chaffin, is writing a historical set in the 1960's...I will admit to a sharp stab in my chest when I read that because I don't consider myself 'historical'...although I may have to rethink that after rereading this comment. LOL

Deanne Wilsted said...

Yes Judith... that is exactly it; and not only with gender roles but with so many aspects of our culture. How we felt about government, how we dealt with social and economic (not to mention gender) inequality, how we dealt with racial differences and diversity.

This was an incredible growth period for us, and as such carried immense conflict.

Thanks so much for the comment. I hope we can explore all of this in more detail as our fabulous line-up of guest authors post their own viewws about writing 20th c romance.

Sarah Raplee said...

Mary Stuart's Romantic mysteries in the 1960s and '70s gave girls strong role models of women who navigated the world of relationships,work and dangerous secrets with intelligence and grace.