Mormon gender in the mid-twentieth century

Authored by: Colleen McDannell

The Routledge Handbook of Mormonism and Gender

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9780815395218
eBook ISBN: 9781351181600
Adobe ISBN:


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The postwar Mormon culture constructed between 1945 and 1970 flourished throughout the tumultuous years of the 1960s and provided a workable ideal until the end of the century. Church materials directed toward members presented a constant picture of appropriate masculinity and femininity in spite of changing gender roles in the larger American society. Caring for large families and participating in ward activities became women’s primary activities. Latter-day Saint men were expected to be the sole financial providers for their families, while staying fully involved in the church and active in the home. Sexual discipline was required of both genders and an elaborate language of purity was developed to instill appropriate heterosexual behavior. Obviously, high standards were hard to meet and many Saints, in spite of their best intentions, could not always practice their ideals. At the beginning of the 1950s, Latter-day Saints shared notions about gender roles with middle-class Americans. Two decades later, many Americans had adopted more fluid notions of gender and sexual expressions—comportment that would be unacceptable in orthodox Mormon households.

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