Author Information

Sarah Fender


Throughout history, novels have consistently been scrutinized over the images they portray (Cameron 18-25). For some readers, the concern is that scandalous scenes in dirty books will corrupt the young and the feeble-minded. Others worry that representations of certain groups will disrespect and stereotype oppressed peoples. Clearly, novels are not only entertainment or means for escape; they can have moral and political implications. Popular ones most especially reveal a great deal about the culture and time in which they were read. This essay examines the images of women popular novels were offering during the 1950s, an era in which the term “career woman” first became a dirty word (Friedan 32). The small sample of novels analyzed here reveal that a great portion of Americans did indeed consider independent women indecent, but that a smaller fraction of society was working hard to dismantle that maxim.

Note on the Author

Sarah Fender graduated in May 2018 with majors in English and Political Science and a minor in American Studies. She completed this project in the summer of 2017 with the support of the Adrian Tinsley Program summer research grant. She was mentored by Dr. Heidi Bean of the English Department. She presented this paper at the 2018 National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) at the University of Central Oklahoma. In April 2017, Sarah presented other literary research at both the Massachusetts Statewide Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass-Amherst and the Undergraduate Literature Conference at Bridgewater State University. After graduating, Sarah plans to apply to law school to pursue a career as a sexual harassment lawyer.

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