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Our Miss Brooks: Broadcasting Domestic Ideals for the Female Teacher in the Postwar United States
Abstract

Abstract:

This article examines how a popular CBS radio comedy about a fictional female high school English teacher, Our Miss Brooks, presented conflicting conceptions of femininity and professionalism in the postwar United States. Our analysis of one hundred episodes broadcast during 1948–57 reveals that the depiction of Miss Brooks focused primarily on her personal life, extracurricular activities, and maternal, caregiving role, while it downplayed her autonomy and intellectual competence. Overworked and underpaid, Miss Brooks was ruled by her male principal. In highlighting this female teacher's constant quest to find a husband, and through jokes about her financial instability, this radio program suggested that only marriage, with the implied end of her teaching, would complete her identity and allow upward social and economic mobility. In considering commercial sponsorship as well as commentary in the print media, we conclude that many Americans perceived this fictional character as a realistic depiction of a female teacher, and its gender role messages resonated with most audiences. Our Miss Brooks so privileged women's domestic roles that even within the culturally accepted female career of teaching, it informed audiences that androcentric conceptions of womanhood would still circumscribe women's career identities in the postwar era.