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Writing the Mean

University of Florida Institutional Repository
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021826/00001

Material Information

Title: Writing the Mean Phyllis McGinley and American Domesticity
Physical Description: 1 online resource (46 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Leroy, Megan A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: 1950s, advertising, american, domestic, domesticity, feminine, fifties, heart, home, housewife, humor, journal, ladies, lhj, light, magazine, mcginley, mean, modern, new, phyllis, poet, poetry, province, pulitzer, three, times, verse, women, yorker
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinley was a prolific writer and publisher throughout her career (roughly 1920-1960), finding coveted space in both popular and academic magazines like the Ladies' Home Journal and the New Yorker. McGinley was known in the literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in humor and satire. But despite her productive career, McGinley was neglected by the second-wave feminist critics even as they sought to recover and expand new female writers like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich. As a result, McGinley has become virtually unknown in contemporary scholarship and has faded from cultural memory. Why has she been rendered so invisible to academia? My thesis answers this question by examining the perceived limitations of McGinley's poetry and prose within LHJ and the NY. I posit that McGinley's ignored status stems partly from her own recognition of herself as a domestic 'housewife poet' before the more liberal Anne Sexton popularized the term. As postwar domesticity became taboo for feminist critics, McGinley audaciously embraced the housewife. She also chose to write in formalized light verse when the emerging modernist and avant-garde movements in poetry focused on free verse and serious philosophical issues. By labeling herself as housewife poet and continuing to use light verse, McGinley was stigmatized as a matronly comical poetess, whose writing refused to take seriously the bonds that feminist critics were working to break through. She was, rather, writing the mean, taking ideas from both traditional values and contemporary women?s rights to create a hybrid, or a both/and, option for women in America. This thesis' evidence is limited to 1950s America, as this decade is both the golden age of the American housewife and the prime of McGinley?s career. Through her work McGinley offers compromise to fifties housewives; she gives them hope, she gives them reason, and above all she gives them humor.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Megan A Leroy.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Bryant, Marsha C.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021826:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021826/00001

Material Information

Title: Writing the Mean Phyllis McGinley and American Domesticity
Physical Description: 1 online resource (46 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Leroy, Megan A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: 1950s, advertising, american, domestic, domesticity, feminine, fifties, heart, home, housewife, humor, journal, ladies, lhj, light, magazine, mcginley, mean, modern, new, phyllis, poet, poetry, province, pulitzer, three, times, verse, women, yorker
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinley was a prolific writer and publisher throughout her career (roughly 1920-1960), finding coveted space in both popular and academic magazines like the Ladies' Home Journal and the New Yorker. McGinley was known in the literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in humor and satire. But despite her productive career, McGinley was neglected by the second-wave feminist critics even as they sought to recover and expand new female writers like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich. As a result, McGinley has become virtually unknown in contemporary scholarship and has faded from cultural memory. Why has she been rendered so invisible to academia? My thesis answers this question by examining the perceived limitations of McGinley's poetry and prose within LHJ and the NY. I posit that McGinley's ignored status stems partly from her own recognition of herself as a domestic 'housewife poet' before the more liberal Anne Sexton popularized the term. As postwar domesticity became taboo for feminist critics, McGinley audaciously embraced the housewife. She also chose to write in formalized light verse when the emerging modernist and avant-garde movements in poetry focused on free verse and serious philosophical issues. By labeling herself as housewife poet and continuing to use light verse, McGinley was stigmatized as a matronly comical poetess, whose writing refused to take seriously the bonds that feminist critics were working to break through. She was, rather, writing the mean, taking ideas from both traditional values and contemporary women?s rights to create a hybrid, or a both/and, option for women in America. This thesis' evidence is limited to 1950s America, as this decade is both the golden age of the American housewife and the prime of McGinley?s career. Through her work McGinley offers compromise to fifties housewives; she gives them hope, she gives them reason, and above all she gives them humor.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Megan A Leroy.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Bryant, Marsha C.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021826:00001


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WRITING THE MEAN: PHYLLIS MCGINLEY AND AMERICAN DOMESTICITY


By

MEGAN ANNE LEROY













A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007


































2007 Megan Anne Leroy





























For Mom and Dad









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost I want to thank my mom and dad. Without their love and support this project

would not exist. My mother persistently fueled my desire to study poetry through example and

encouragement. My father has been invaluable as a model of determination and constant source

of support no matter how many times his cell phone rang. Also, my director Marsha Bryant, and

my reader, David Leverenz, were instrumental in the success of this project. I appreciate their

continual support and belief in me as a scholar.









TABLE OF CONTENTS

page

A CK N O W LED G M EN T S ................................................................. ........... ............. .....

ABSTRAC T .......................................................................... 6

CHAPTER

1 INTRODUCTION ............... .............................. ......................... .... .8

A C critical S u rv ey ...................... ...... ........ .......... ................................... ................... 10
"Housewife Poet": Refusing Models of Women's and Postwar Poetry.............................. 11

2 M CG IN LEY AN D LIGH T V ER SE ........... ......................................................................16

3 MCGINLEY COMPLICATING THE IDEA OF HOUSEWIFE .......................................19

Eliding Expectations: "A Landscape of Love"........................................... .....................31
Eliding Expectations: "A W ord to Hostess"................................................. ...... ......... 33

4 WRITING THE MEAN: "THE DOLL HOUSE" AND "THE HONOR OF BEING A
W O M A N ................... ............................................................. ................35

5 C O N C LU SIO N ......... ........ .... .......... ................................. ........ ........42

W O R K S C IT E D .................................................................................44

B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H .............................................................................. .....................46









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

WRITING THE MEAN: PHYLLIS MCGINLEY AND AMERICAN DOMESTICITY

By

Megan Anne Leroy

December 2007

Chair: Marsha Bryant
Major: English

American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinley was a prolific writer and publisher

throughout her career (roughly 1920-1960), finding coveted space in both popular and academic

magazines like the Ladies' Home Journal and the New Yorker. McGinley was known in the

literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in humor and satire. But despite her

productive career, McGinley was neglected by the second-wave feminist critics even as they

sought to recover and expand new female writers like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich. As a

result, McGinley has become virtually unknown in contemporary scholarship and has faded from

cultural memory. Why has she been rendered so invisible to academia?

My thesis answers this question by examining the perceived limitations of McGinley's

poetry and prose within LHJ and the NY. I posit that McGinley's ignored status stems partly

from her own recognition of herself as a domestic "housewife poet" before the more liberal Anne

Sexton popularized the term. As postwar domesticity became taboo for feminist critics,

McGinley audaciously embraced the housewife. She also chose to write in formalized light verse

when the emerging modernist and avant-garde movements in poetry focused on free verse and

serious philosophical issues. By labeling herself as housewife poet and continuing to use light

verse, McGinley was stigmatized as a matronly comical poetess, whose writing refused to take









seriously the bonds that feminist critics were working to break through. She was, rather, writing

the mean, taking ideas from both traditional values and contemporary women's rights to create a

hybrid, or a both/and, option for women in America.

This thesis' evidence is limited to 1950s America, as this decade is both the golden age of

the American housewife and the prime of McGinley's career. Through her work McGinley offers

compromise to fifties housewives; she gives them hope, she gives them reason, and above all she

gives them humor.









CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION

To be a housewife is a difficult, a wrenching, sometimes an ungrateful job if it is looked on
only as ajob. Regarded as a profession, it is the noblest as it is the most ancient of the
catalogue. Let none persuade us differently or the world is lost indeed.

-Phyllis McGinley, Sixpence in Her Shoe

American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinley was a prolific writer and publisher

throughout her career (roughly 1920-1970), finding coveted space in both popular and highbrow

magazines like the Ladies' Home Journal and the New Yorker. She even won the Pulitzer Prize

in 1961 for Times Three (selectedpoems). Aside from her sheer volume of textual production,

McGinley was also known in the literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in

humor and satiric tone. But despite her dynamic career, McGinley was neglected by second-

wave feminist literary critics even as they sought to bring her postwar contemporaries Adrienne

Rich and Sylvia Plath into the canon. As a result, McGinley has become virtually unknown in

contemporary scholarship. Why has she been rendered so invisible in the academy?

My thesis answers this question by examining and returning to McGinley's poetry and

prose to question the limited perceptions of her work. I posit that McGinley's neglected status

stems from two major issues: she does not fit reigning models of women's poetry or postwar

poetry, and she adopts light verse. McGinley embraces domesticity at the start of second-wave

feminism while she eschews free verse amidst the rise of both modernist avant-garde poetry and

confessional poetry. And yet, McGinley needs to be included among major women poets

because her bridging of both LHJ's and the NY's presentation of postwar domesticity

complicates the image of the housewife poet. McGinley was what I will term writing the mean.

She offered American women an option in between the fictitious perfect housewife and poets









who rebelled against domesticity. She created a both/and position for homemaking women to

occupy, negotiating the space that had yet to be defined.

The peak of McGinley's career coincides with the stereotypical golden age of the

American housewife; thus, I will focus on the decade of 1950-1960. I must clarify that

McGinley's targeted audience was, like Betty Friedan's, white, middle-class, and educated

women (a major constituency of LHJs demographic). These women of the 1950s were

dichotomously labeled either super-heroine suburban moms managing to raise respectful

children and have a full course dinner waiting for their bread-winning husbands, or they were

liberated and enlightened intellectuals fighting for feminist rights-take your pick ladies, June

Cleaver, or Sylvia Plath. Although recent criticism, headed by Elaine Tyler May, continually

revises traditional history to show how fifties housewives were actually breaking out of their

domestic containment instead of existing passively within it, the only internal motive posited is

often boredom or unhappiness with domestic roles. McGinley, in writing the mean, expands the

either Cleaver or Plath, happy or bored, binary and creates a multifaceted identity, modeling not

a limited choice for women, but rather a merged alternative-the mean between two extremes. In

her masterful light verse style, embedded in literary tradition, McGinley fashioned a self-given

dual label and refused to be categorized as either housewife or poet, opting instead for

"housewife poet" long before Sexton popularized the term. Unlike Sexton, McGinley was not

being ironic or self-deprecating, she was choosing a professional career. "Housewife poet" was

not a label to be denigrated or mocked; it was an honorable and purposefully constructed

identity. McGinley resolutely chose to write the mean and marketed herself as such; thus she

must complicate our current notions of postwar American domesticity.









A Critical Survey

McGinley's own bridged status as a housewife and poet becomes clearer when we look at

her biography. Born in 1905, McGinley graduated from the University of Utah and moved to

New York in 1929, where she simultaneously taught high school English and published poetry.

She married Charles L. Hayden in 1936, and had her first child, Julie, by 1939 and a second,

Patsy, in 1941. Traversing both personal and professional expectations, McGinley was an

educated, published writer with a college degree, yet she still had two kids, a husband, and an in-

home job. She portrayed traditional domesticity while she became quite invested in her poetry.

She also had the money to hire a maid/nanny, creating more time for her poetic profession.

Extending into pop culture and literary culture, McGinley published eight volumes of poetry, as

well as individual poems published in acclaimed magazines such as Harper 's, The New Yorker,

Ladies' Home Journal, and Saturday Evening Post. Magazines like Ladies' Home Journal (LHJ)

and The New Yorker (NY) reveal the breadth of McGinley's work. A best-selling popular poet

from the 1930s-1960s, McGinley won both the Edna St. Vincent Millay Memorial Award in

1954 for The Love Letters ofPhyllis McGinley, and the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for Times Three

(selected poems). In addition to the books of poetry, McGinley also wrote children's books and a

collection of prose essays, The Province of the Heart (1959), in which she published her

opinions of American social codes and traditions, gracefully yet persistently embracing

domesticity as a worthy institution.

Though McGinley has long since ceased to be a best-selling author, she was quite popular

throughout her own career. J.D. McCarthy comments on McGinley's recognition in one of the

few books inclusive of her work, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Phyllis McGinley: "So

popular was her work, and so canny were her portraits of middle-class matrons, their hapless

husbands and conniving children, that for two generations McGinley's work-her books flew off









the shelves, tens of thousands of copies at a time-was as well-known and as well-heeded as

anyone's" (McCarthy 43). McGinley's popularity with middle class wives and mothers most

likely added to her scorn from critics. Few popular works and popular poets have been embraced

critically by anyone other than consumers. Notwithstanding her current absence, she was a

celebrated poet in her time.

"Housewife Poet": Refusing Models of Women's and Postwar Poetry

Whereas feminist literary critics targeted postwar domesticity as inscribing female

containment, McGinley audaciously claimed herself a "housewife poet," immediately

stigmatizing herself to them as the matronly poetess heralding domestic containment. Contrary to

her marked reputation as an average poet, however, McGinley was actually crafting a much more

complex, critical voice/viewpoint of modern literary history. She combined the label of

housewife with that of poet and created a merged identity. McGinley refused to be just

"housewife" while she denied being solely a poet. Crafting verse that was domestic in content

but formal in poetic structure, McGinley marketed herself as the witty author of poems like

"Calendar for Parents," which was published in the February 1952 issues of LHJ. In this amusing

poem, McGinley transforms the monotony of raising children into a comical, yet still realistic,

rant:

Call the birthday party off:
Junior's down with the whooping cough...

Let no Christmas kin invite us,
That's our date for tonsillitis...

Lives there tot with health so firm
He never harbored festal germ?

If such there be, God save his powers,
But he's not chick nor child of ours. (McGinley, "Calendar..." 1-2, 7-8, 14-16)









This poem laughingly comments on domestic life while occasionally alternating to a

serious critical tone. It is clear, however, that "Calendar for Parents" is a domestic poem,

embracing the family and motherhood as worthy content. McGinley comically depicts fifties

family life as one that revolves solely around the children, showcasing humor and illustrating

both the burden and joy of kids, the sparkling and the dirty sides of being a housewife. As

William Young and Nancy Young state in The 1950s, "Having children was touted as the highest

form of happiness; a woman fulfilled herself by bearing children" (Young 7). McGinley was

aware of this reigning idea through her own experience as a mother and a writer. She made a

savvy marketing choice to embrace domesticity in the fifties, producing content and context in

poetry that would sell. McGinley knew her public audience and fashioned her poetry to meet the

needs of her readers. Yet, one can see how a poem like "Calendar for Parents" might be

abandoned by feminist critics who were fighting against the containment of women as

housewives. To them, McGinley's poetry was doubly old-fashioned, both in ideals and in

rhyming couplet form.

One such critic, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963 right as

McGinley's career began to fade from memory. But Friedan sought to identify issues and

publicly address conclusions that were already prevalent in the 1950s. Like McGinley, Friedan

addressed white middle class, educated women, but she viewed professionalized housewifery as

incredibly limited and contained, stifling women's potential and allowing them only "insular

domesticity" (Friedan 51). Faulting "women's magazines.. advertisements, televisions, movies,

[and] novels" (43), as instigators of "the problem that has no name" (19), Friedan famously

proclaimed for housewives, "We can no longer ignore that voice within women that says, 'I want

something more than my husband and my children and my home'" (32). Friedan documented the









majority of white, middle-class housewives as unhappy and unsatisfied with their roles.

According to her evidence, fifties ads suffocated women by creating unachievable ideals and

prompting the feminine mystique. Such was the other choice for women-either embrace your

inner June Cleaver, or recognize your suffering and turn to a new occupation.

Writers like McGinley who embraced domestic ideals did not fit in Freidan's view of

women's poetry because Friedan saw McGinley as stifling women's options, and promoting

unhappy housewifery. Freidan comments about domestic women writers:

... a new breed of women writers began to write about themselves as if they were "just
housewives," reveling in a comic world of children's pranks and eccentric washing
machines and Parents' Night at the PTA...When Shirley Jackson, who all her adult life has
been an extremely capable writer, pursuing a craft far more demanding than bedmaking,
and Jean Kerr, who is a playwright, and Phyllis McGinley, who is a poet, picture
themselves as housewives, they may or may not overlook the housekeeper or maid who
really makes the beds. But they implicitly deny the vision, and the satisfying hard work
involved in their stories, poems, and plays. They deny the lives they lead, not as
housewives, but as individuals (Friedan 57).

Friedan saw these "Housewife Writers" (57) as a group of women duping their readers by

offering them temporary humor. She credits McGinley as a "good craftsman," but criticizes her

for lending no substantial ideas to change the majority of housewives lives.

In her questioning, Friedan found the educated women in suburbia to be living

problematic situations. In her book A Feminist Critique, Cassandra Langer describes Friedan's

issue as one of untapped potential: "Rarely did they [housewives] have the energy to pursue

professional careers, take university courses, or fulfill their creative possibilities in any way.

When they complained of feeling listless or told their doctors their lives were pointless, they

were told to take Miltown or Valium, buy a new dress, or try a new hairstyle" (Langer 132).

Housewifery, for Friedan, limited women to the contained role of mother/housekeeper/wife,

offering them no option for progressing their own interests and careers-the presumed highest

achievement-and instead leaving them with the presumed misery of housework. From this









perspective, McGinley seemed to be only critically useful as a target example of "domestic

poet."

Contrary to McGinley's liminal scholarly status, Sylvia Plath is enshrined as a poet of

domesticity. Plath has become "one of America's major poets" and "literature's great

commodity" (Bryant 17), whereas McGinley has been ignored. Plath began publishing at the

height of McGinley's career, also using magazines like LHJ and the NY as a marketplace.

McGinley and Plath actually appeared in the same LHJ December 1959 issue, McGinley

publishing "Office Party" and Plath publishing "The Second Winter." McGinley published

multiple children's books; Plath wrote a children's book but couldn't get it placed. Plath

authored many poems referencing domesticity, often mocking the role of housewife, but

nonetheless shaping it. In "Plath, Domesticity, and the Art of Advertising" Marsha Bryant

proposes Plath as an author who "[l]ike ads... explores performative as well as mechanical

dimensions of domesticity. She draws the reader into the intimate spaces of the home (kitchen,

bedroom, nursery), only to reveal a stage" (Bryant 22). Also in the middle of second-wave

feminism, Plath could be embraced by feminist critics because she revealed the ludicrous

performativity of the perfect housewife. Women writers like Plath were precursors to the official

movement eventually placed alongside Betty Friedan. McGinley, Plath's literary equal and rival,

was not as clearly aligned with feminist revisions. Considered, perhaps, a more highly skilled

poet due to her intense verse and own marginal existence, Plath has long been part of the literary

canon. Even while tackling domestic issues, we can safely assume she would have balked at the

label "housewife" poet, and though Plath published satirical verse and poems about domesticity,

she rarely, if ever, wrote light verse. Plath even commented in her journal, "Phyllis McGinley is









out-light verse: she's sold herself' (Plath 360). Clearly, Plath thought little of McGinley and

her work.

McGinley, it seems, was purposefully ignored in lieu of writers like Plath and Friedan, too

much of a housewife for many feminist critics. Wagner's Phyllis McGinley was even perhaps

recognized and then passed over because McGinley's work was still too domestic in 1970. She

still seems to exist somewhat lodged in that category of average domestic poet, in conservative

opposition to the radical labels of the aforementioned women. But her unique position in critical

perspectives of literature and history cannot go unnoticed. McGinley is an important figure,

complicating our notions of post-war and women's poetry, and questioning how those canonical

categories were constructed. A closer look at McGinley's work amidst images of post-war

domesticity will not allow her to be so easily stigmatized. Her poetry positions itself as a "mean"

to the binary options for the 1950s housewife.









CHAPTER 2
MCGINLEY AND LIGHT VERSE

McGinley does not slot easily into models for women's or post-war poetry, but perhaps

what made her work seem even more insignificant was her choice to write in light verse. The

popular light verse market was a practical decision for McGinley as a professional poet and

unofficial critic. As Wagner presents, McGinley's writing career began "when she discovered

that the New Yorker paid higher rates for 'light' poetry than for 'serious.' That there was a

demand for light verse was the important consideration for this young English teacher-turned-

writer. She wanted to live from her writing; obviously she needed a market" (Wagner 15).

McGinley fashioned herself around a market, advertising herself as a humorous housewife poet

who could make light of routine responsibilities. Throughout her writing career this market

continued to thrive, allowing McGinley to publish both skillful writing and social criticism.

Therefore, McGinley was able to enjoy her own domestic role as housewife while practicing

considerable talent in her literary label of poet.

But light verse deserves more credit as a highly polished form of poetry as well as a useful

tool for McGinley. Though light domestic verse is often cast aside as insignificant, standing "just

outside the categories by which verse received its accreditation" (Brunner 245), findingig the

right tone between acidity and blandness, drawing unexpected sources of wit from the banal, and

exposing the absurd without seeming either cruel or whining is no small feat" (Fritzer and Bland

3). Like writing light verse, housewifery took seemingly effortless skill, nuance, and balance; it,

too, required a balancing act of mother/housekeeper/hostess where wit and humor were

employed just as much as in McGinley's poetry. Delicacy in awkward situations not only was

the role of the hostess housewife, but also could be said of McGinley's verse as well. Both









professions benefit from perfect form and the ability to be light with one's feet. Writing in light

verse may have been a more strategic choice for McGinley than we have yet to acknowledge.

Let us remember "Calendar for Parents" and its primary goal to laugh at the monotony of

raising children. Mothers who might have been forced to "Call the birthday party off' (1)

because "Junior's down with the whooping cough" (2) needed the ability to laugh at ludicrous

circumstances that forced them to stay within the house, within their domestic boundaries. When

women didn't find perfection in domesticity, McGinley's humor allowed women to use her

poetry as a model and a means of escape. In this poem, every major holiday and event revolve

around the children who routinely get sick, brilliantly emphasized by McGinley's multisyllabic

end rhymes-the plight of "us" cedes to "tonsillitis," the parental "powers" lend solely to the

"child of ours." Borrowing formal rhyme and iambic tetrameter from high poetic form,

McGinley places parents at the whims of their children's health. The speaker's imperative

commands allow no room for discussion of priorities. Using generic names like "Junior" and

"Sister," McGinley markets her poem to every mother. A mother and wife herself, McGinley,

also confronted with the image of happy housewife, proceeds to make fun of it. Yet, underlying

the comic surface lies a true frustration with children who do routinely become ill and force

changes in plans. Well-versed in the sacrifices of motherhood, McGinley offers comedy and

poetry to counter expected routine. The comical domestic verse allows McGinley to unveil the

drudgery and frustrations of housewives without looking unacceptable as a bad mother who is

not always fulfilled by her children.

Many poets preceding McGinley dabbled in humor writing, including canonized names

like Emily Dickinson or Edna St. Vincent Millay. W.H. Auden, who introduced McGinley's

Pulitzer Prize winning volume Times Three, also wrote light verse and offered his own quasi-









definition: "'There is a certain way of writing which one calls light, but underneath it can carry a

great depth of emotion'" (Wagner 36). These poets, already secure in their own tradition,

recognized the skill in creating light domestic verse and were still applauded with critical

attention. McGinley wrote brilliant light verse, often in perfect form and rhyme, manipulating

almost every poetic form and technique. There is no denying her skill. But more importantly,

similarly to those light verse masters before her, she used the medium to espouse her views on

society.

Based on the context in which her poetry was published, McGinley used light verse to

subtly rebuke the images and ads that were surrounding her poetry. She mocked the advertised

elegant perfection of a housewife and comically described routine household duties. McGinley

once labeled her own work with a defensive spout: "'There's a hell of a lot of straight social

criticism'" (18). Despite the comic overtones, she overtly saw her writing as more than

entertaining humor. She said again, in 1960, "It wasn't until Wordsworth that there was this great

dividing line between 'serious' poetry and 'light verse'" (41). This added to her earlier comment

in 1954: "What I have been consciously trying to do recently-ever since I've had enough

confidence to consider myself a poet-is to narrow the gulf between 'light' and 'serious' verse.

One other thing: I always try to share with my readers the immediacy of my own delight or

despair of the world as I see it through my window" (41). McGinley seems to ask us herself to

reconsider light verse as more than a witty way to make a living. The genre offered her the

perfect mode of writing the mean. Couched in humor and wit, she could reveal housewifery as an

honorable and skilled profession, a view that was not critically popular at the time, or at least

became less so as she continued to write. Light verse gave her a wider and more popular

audience while also adding to her domestic stigma as an average poet.









CHAPTER 3
MCGINLEY COMPLICATING THE IDEA OF HOUSEWIFE

Not only is McGinley's work in conflict with traditional models of women's and postwar

poetry through her embrace of domesticity and use of light verse, but she also complicates the

accepted view of the American 50s housewife. In order to see McGinley's intricate workings

with this image, it is important to capture the cultural moment of the American housewife. In the

1950s, the nation stood at an unprecedented juncture after a nation-wide depression, two major

world wars, and a recent booming economy. Such a roller coaster of events encouraged a

national embrace of secure and moral values-home, family, and hard work. American women,

fell directly within this new social desire by providing firm anchors of housewives and

comforting nurturers in both reality and marketed images. Women, then, came to define

themselves through this ongoing and increasingly emphasized role of housekeeper, mother, and

wife.1 Eugenia Kaledin encapsulates the status of women in Daily Life in the United States,

1940-1959 .\/njli Worlds:

The high marriage and birth rates and the low divorce rate intertwined naturally with the
"feminine mystique"-the idea that woman's fulfillment was in the home and nowhere
else... They came slowly to realize that sex discrimination could be subtle as well as
overt-even as they played the roles of wife and mother that society demanded. Most
women were content for a time to make the most of these old-fashioned roles.2 (Kaledin
103)

As new anchors of the nuclear family, women also became primary American consumers.

Though women may have been temporarily content (or contained), as Kaledin points out, they

also continued to recognize the housewife conundrum. Confronted with polished images, women


1 Not to mention the unending list of other roles: cook, hostess, lover, etc.


2 Kaledin continues to point out that many women were still working after World War II, but this paper will focus
on that section of women who considered themselves housewives in work and in duty-those not currently
employed outside of the household.









were commissioned to become perfect housewives though few had the means to achieve the

advertised perfection even it if it was theoretically achievable.

Advertisements in magazines like LHJ and the NY displayed glamorous images of

housewifery on the same pages that McGinley published her poems. These cultural and

contextual images of perfection perpetuated the idea of housewifery that both Friedan and

McGinley countered through their own respective means. Radio, television, and movies (the

same ones Friedan hated, McGinley too) produced image after image of the pristine housewife,

firmly in control of herself, her house, and her family. While "popular media portrayed

American women as possibly the best-dressed housekeepers ever seen" (Young 10), women

were bombarded by the display of "elegant dresses, high heels, [and] jewelry" (10).

Advertisements, especially, escalated this pristine housewife image to insist women "smile as

they dust and vacuum" (10), even finding fulfillment in the drudgery of cleaning their homes.

Presumably an unachievable model, the organized housewife marked the decade, sending an

explicit guilty message to women, and leaving no room for error. If women's houses weren't as

clean as the ones in the pictures, and women weren't as happy about motherhood as the ever-

persistent smiling faces were in the ads, they should feel guilty because they were unworthy

housewives. McGinley will take specific issue with this idea. Again, in The 1950s, William

Young and Nancy Young comment on a true extent of the message by illustrating how

comfortfor' and 'convenience' became the watchwords, and chores like cooking and cleaning

got blended into a happy lifestyle. Kitchens-the multi-purpose command centers of many new

suburban homes-merged with the laundry, dining, and family rooms, as fun and recreation

became the focus of modem living" (Young 10-11). Some advertisements presented housewives

that "even [wore] crowns" labeling "women as queens of domesticity" (11).









Most remember Frigidaire's "Queen for a Day" campaign that turned into a nationally

broadcast television show in the fifties. This television series immortalized the housewife as a

queen of domesticity. In the show, Jack Bailey interviewed four women

and whoever was in the worst shape-assessed by the audience "applause meter"-was
crowned Queen For A Day... TV Guide called Bailey television's 'No. 1 mesmerizer of
middle-aged females and most relentless dispenser of free washing machines'...It was
exactly what the general public wanted....We got what we were after. Five thousand
Queens got what they were after. And the TV audience cried their eyes out, morbidly
delighted to find there were people worse off than they were, and so they got what they
were after.3

The chosen woman was literally "draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe and a jeweled

crown" to publicly announce her ineptness as a housewife in addition to her publicized

queendom. Fifties media offered unachievable expectations and guilt-laden models with few

alternative images for women; housewifery was the epitome of success and happiness in life, not

to mention a patriotic symbol of security amidst the looming Cold War.

Perhaps most importantly, however, magazine readership was imperative to the image of

the 50s housewife, as most of the ads of perfection resided within their covers. Friedan

specifically pointed fingers at magazines like LHJ as displaying happy housewives and

overwhelming the average reader with a monthly onslaught of perfection while maintaining the

national status quo.4 LHJ ranked at the top of widely read women's magazines; "over 5 million

women... subscribed to the Journal in 1955" (Kaledin 103). Fifties women's magazines were

not simply a place for the latest appliance ad or the most recent marriage column, but rather an

entry into American society and an influence on it. Women bought LHJ because they saw


3All quotes taken from Shawn Hanley's paper at http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/projects/hanley/queen.html

Term taken from David Abrahmson, quoted in Walker's article: "because the large mass-circulation magazines
were predicated on a sense of national community, all had an editorial interest in perpetuating the status quo (5)"
(Walker 130).









themselves, as well as who they wanted to be, reflected in it. It was, in fact, "The Magazine

Women Believed in." Housewives were a popular subject of discussion. At the same time, LHJ

also reflected changing social customs and codes, a guidebook for women and a mark of

American culture.

Nancy Walker summarizes the impact of LHJ in her intriguing article, "The Ladies'Home

Journal, 'How America Lives' and the Limits of Cultural Diversity":

[M]agazines for women are not the result of monolithic editorial visions, but instead the
product of complex negotiations with a variety of cultural forces... Fluctuations in the
economy brought about by the Depression, World War II rationing and shortages, and
postwar prosperity affected everything from fashions to household design and technology.
New products and new areas of expertise were reflected in articles and advise columns.
Developments in medicine, child care, and education, not to mention changes in tastes and
values, launched new features and series. Most importantly, of course, these magazines
were (and are) businesses, heavily dependent upon advertising revenue for their continued
existence. Not only do product manufacturers buy advertising space in periodicals whose
readers are apt to be interested in the, but advertisements become part of the 'message' of
the magazine.5 (Walker 30)

It is these advertised messages within the magazine that most glorified the happy housewife. I do

not mean to suggest that LHJ solely presented the perfect housewife, nor do I mean to suggest

that women solely aspired to become June Cleaver or Donna Reed. Many women, in fact, still

held jobs after the Second World War, and many women voiced their discontent through

responses to the content and material of LHJ. The magazine portrayed a mainstream domesticity,

but it also published sections on domestic problems and concerns. I do posit, however, that the

advertisements in magazines such as LHJ created the socially accepted view of the housewife,

offering women the choice of either conforming to pristine images, or enduring the guilt of being


Walker continues astutely: "Rather than setting out to espouse a philosophy, then, the women's magazines largely
responded to an array of social, business, and even political institutions in determining what to publish. And even a
cursory survey of the letters to the editor that the magazines printed demonstrates that readers were not uniformly
brainwashed by what they read; they criticized the fiction, took issue with the advice offered by various experts, and
questioned the perfectionist standards for home and family life that the magazines often projected" (Walker 130).









a bad housewife, a label we have already deemed as combining the multiple roles of mother,

wife and hostess. Women weren't just bad housekeepers, they were triply disappointing

throughout their lives. These magazines were shaping the image of post-war domesticity.

Combining her critical humor with the recognition of housewives as part of the "mean,"

"Scientific Explanation of a Monday" (March 1954) provides a great example of McGinley both

lauding housewifery and exploiting its drudgery, offering yet another layered view of both the

rewards and the frustration that come with being a housewife. This poem is one we might expect

to be in LHJ based on its content. It presents a comically apt analysis of why Monday has

become loathed by many housewives, emblematic of the day-to-day weekly solo routine that

starts with the first household workday. The poet lists reasons Monday "can't abide existence"

(18), as compared to other days of the week.

Stanza by stanza the poet systematically logs each day of the weekend with fun and routine

events, culminating in her detailing of Monday as completely dull and meaningless. The speaker

comments:

Saturday's a splendid day
With merriment ahead.
The day to pick a winner
Or to hie to country
climes.

Sunday's the intended day
For lying later in bed.
For church and early
dinner
And the puzzle in the
Times. (1-11)

Both Saturday and Sunday are weekend days, days when housewives would often have another

parent at hand. These days exude merriment and relaxation-time for families to reconnect. The

verse form mimics each day, spilling down to the one word marker of that day. Weekend trips









were common in the fifties, such as taking the family to drive-in movies, or up into "country

climes" (4-5), for a brief outing. Sunday proves a relaxing day, time when even mothers perhaps

could complete the Sunday "puzzle in the / Times" (10-11), showing her intellect by completing

the hardest puzzle of the week. Remembering the context of LHJ and its audience, this poem

reflects its audience's competence and interest in the Times puzzle, indirectly touting women as

smart and educated within their housewife roles. The poem also heralds housewives as being

enjoyable active mothers and organizers of household events.

The poem follows with the comparative banal Monday, the day there's "nothing in the

mail" (20):

No word from my kinfolk, no
line from my dear.
Not even a postal with a "Wish
you were here." (20-24)

The speaker longs for communication from those she holds dear-those outside her nuclear

family-and becomes annoyed that Monday only brings what is, to her, unimportant mail.

McGinley exalted relationships and used them as key centers for many of her poems, similar to

other LHJ entries. This speaker clearly reveals her familial honor by missing communication

with her family; it is not "Life's Meaning" nor "Remorse" that produces the speaker's lament,

but her own intuition:

It's my soul's own warning
I have never known fail:
There'll be nothing but a
Catalogue
Nothing but a Bank Statement
Nothing but a Tax Form
Monday morning in the mail.6 (33-39)



6 Poem as appears in the March 1954 issue of LHJ.









Monday is seemingly not preferable because there is "nothing in the mail" (20). Yet, again, the

true annoyance comes with what is absent from the mail as well as what is in the mail. Family

relations take precedence while tax forms and bank statements only symbolize the monotony of

what the week will hold. The housewife, here, has been forgotten. She is heralded as fueling

those relationships (children/husband) that she most misses, but she herself is unexcited about

the week's routine.

McGinley writes of the speaker's frustration with Monday in a very comic tone, a tone

which makes light the "[a]nger, pain, frustration, and weariness" within the housewife role,

sloughed off to "counterattack" with a "just kidding" (Fritzer and Bland 3). Using light verse

"demands that subject matter be familiar, that poems contain wit or humor, that language be

immediately clear" (Wagner 27) thus McGinley uses a common constructions of the days of the

week and common conventions like getting the mail to illustrate a more powerful poetic position

within the cultural and historical binary. The speaker in this poem may be delegated to the

household, but she is very much aware of those things out of her domestic sphere, in charge of

official paperwork. The light touch of McGinley's work doesn't weigh further on the routine of

the house, but lightens the load of the housewife reading this poem. Her nuanced verse lines

subtly emphasize the important and skilled roles of wives and mothers. With such a dexterous

hand, McGinley is able to identify with housewives and recognize their toil while transforming

routine into comedy.

Unlike Sylvia Plath, who was accepted by LHJ but continually rejected by the NY (she

was eventually accepted in the NY but it took quite some time), McGinley used both LHJ and the

NY for more publication locales. She wrote comedic light verse for the NY, but used the

magazine as an area for more literary poems as well. A magazine that was also shaping post-war









domesticity, the NY was symbolically the intellectual opposite of LHJ. It was not considered

"domestic," nor was it traditionally marketed as a women's magazine like LHJ. The fifties NY

symbolized the scholarly, the witty intellectual, the wealthy and the cosmopolitan, creating a new

space for domesticity. 1950s New York City was, indeed, the prime location for a cosmopolite,

the center of a new superpower. Since post-war America boasted the acclaim of international

superpower, NYC envisioned itself as the urban center of the world. Like the city itself, the NY

represented the mobile flux of ideas, ideals, and identities across national borders contained

within an urban setting. Distinctly urban 1950s cosmopolites (and specifically poets working

within this cosmopolitan space) were governed by cultural icons that were not just national, but

transnational as Jahan Ramanzani claims in his essay "A Transnational Poetics." Thus

domesticity in the NY took shape different from images of housewifery in LHJ. McGinley would

bridge aspects of both.

The NY was geared towards the upper/upper-middle white and educated class of society

who could achieve and afford the glitz advertised in the magazine. Yet domestic ads still

permeated the NY s cosmopolitanism. Despite occasional misogynistic reader claims, the NY,

too, recognized women as the primary consumers of the decade and incorporated ads with

women in domestic scenes as a focal point. In fact, in Defining New Yorker Humor, Judith

Yaross Lee posits women as the NY's decisive primary audience from its beginning in 1925.

Referring to the first full-page ads of the new created magazine, Lee comments, "[T]hese ads

show that media buyers and the New Yorker's advertising staff agreed on defining the New

Yorker as a magazine for women. Full-page ads for cars, tires and other items addressed men

directly, but ads targeting women outnumbered them. (47) Yet women do often penetrate ads

traditionally directed towards men, with domesticity in the NY emerging as distinctly different









from traditional interpretations. Women sometimes defied the typical suburban housewife image.

Whereas LHJ ads focused primarily on family and children within the home, the NY ads

repositioned these subjects as people and families on the move. Fifties ads from the NY

constantly portray vacations spots, automobile, airplanes, women preparing to go out. Women

portrayed inside the home are often still embody the sexy housewife, but one less glamorous than

Scott's queen. Few ads of household products can be found in the NY, virtually none center page.

I do not mean to say that LHJ and the NY were complete opposites, that LHJ perpetuated the

containment of women, and the NY did not. The NY, however, offers a glimpse of a different side

of domesticity that is not included in the traditional generic definition. Fifties New Yorker

domesticity, rather, was one of mobility and wealth incorporating housewives who also had night

lives, mothers who went on trips with friends, educated women who worked and published.

Cosmopolitan, New Yorker women were depicted routinely taking their families and domestic

lives with them outside of the house and into the city.

Recovering McGinley as a complicated and complicating figure of post-war domesticity

positions her as part of both LHJ and the NY. McGinley was, again, both a popular housewife

(LHJ) and an intellectual poet (the NY), a best-selling author and a Pulitzer Prize winner. In LHJ

McGinley published poems such as "Calendar for Parents" and "Landscape of Love," and prose

pieces such as "The Honor of Being a Woman," where McGinley expands the traditional

interpretations of the fifties housewife as pristine perfection to include the daily drudgery of

housewifery as honorable, empowering and worthy of formal poetic attention. In The New

Yorker, McGinley published routinely alongside canonized writers such as John Cheever and

Adrienne Rich. She wrote more poetry for the NY and was perhaps more comfortable there,

especially since the NY provided a greater market for humor writing. Indeed, some of her wittiest









poetry, "On the Prevalence of Literary Rivals," and her most famous poem, "The Doll House,"

appeared in the NY as McGinley continued to write on domestic issues at the peak of her career.

But she was still a domestic writing in the NY too, publishing poems directly to housewives like

"A Word to Hostesses." Juxtaposing McGinley's work in LHJ/NY reflects the magazine' s

respective domesticities and reveals her as a figure who was complicating post-war domesticity,

voicing a compromise in a time of social polarization. In both magazines, she used her light

verse to allow women the option of personal occupations as well as the respectful occupation of

housewife. She managed to carve a space for poems and prose that both embrace domesticity and

laugh at its constructions. She wrote the mean, a compromise that most women enacted in

everyday life, voicing their everyday struggles while providing not an either/or choice but a

merged possibility: to be both woman and feminist, mother and professional, domestic and

cosmopolitan. McGinley taught women to simultaneously embrace their roles as women and

push at perceived boundaries.

McGinley found her niche in the NY. She loved the city and she was writing to readers

who felt the same. Thus many of her poems found here distinctly locate her work in the

cosmopolitan urban setting of NY domesticity both physically and intellectually. New York City

often becomes central to the theme or content of her work, stylistically recurring most often in

"real time" epigraphs. "Song of High Cuisine" was "Written upon reading in the New York

Times that Bloomingdale's grocery department now offers stuffed larks from the region of

Carcassonne as well as one thrush from the French Alps." The speaker mocks the elaborate

offering of Bloomingdale's inventory. The cosmopolitan choice of "tongues of foreign

nightingales" (23) for dinner is just as over-the-top as the "Queen for a Day" television show.

While seemingly intended for the sophisticated reader, this poem is also quite domestic as it









ponders dinner options. "A Threnody" displays the epigraph McGinley stipulates is from a NY ad

(though this poem was not published in the NY itself)-"The new Rolls-Royce is designed to be

owner driven. No chauffeur required." The poem's speaker then bids "Grandeur, farewell" (1),

as she also says goodbye to the old-world ways now replaced by abundant appliances. Similarly

heralding the urban center of New York, "Ode to an Institution" presents "The Museum of the

City of New York" (15) complete with "somebody's dance dress circa, '20" (42) and a

"diorama" (25) of Central Park. And unveiling the true NY domesticity, she writes in "Mrs.

Sweeney Among the Allegories" that this poem is "multi-level verses composed in a New Haven

Railroad car immediately after having spent an afternoon with the Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot

and an evening at The Confidential Clerk." So, McGinley's epigraphs unveil her poems from the

start as simultaneously funny, cosmopolitan, and current.

Beyond the physical and obvious city-centered poetry, McGinley's work also engaged

with the intellectual expectations of scholarly cosmopolites. Many of her NY poems playfully

attack the values and cultural practices of the upper educated class. She seems to get particular

pleasure in speaking to a class she considers her own. McGinley assuredly viewed herself as a

professional poet and somewhat of a literary critic. Several of her poems parody academic

values, but perhaps none so much as "On the Prevalence of Literary Writers" where she laughs

off the fluidity and indecisiveness of critical attention and lingo while also accentuating her old-

fashioned taste:

It's hard
Keeping up with the avant-garde.
There was the time that Donne
Had a place in the sun.
His lettres were belles of pure gold
And they tolled and they tolled and they tolled,
Until critics in suitable haunts
Took up Kafka (Franz).









Then everyone wanted to herald
The genius of Scott Fitzgerald.
And after, among Prominent Names,
It was utterly Henry James. (1-12)

The poem reveals McGinley to be not as light or limited as typically perceived. Providing the

literary aficionado with a bit of a snicker at herself, McGinley adjusts her content to fit the

greater boundaries of the NY's constituency, simultaneously crafting an intensely witty poem

using her hilarious light verse to meld form and content. The speaker cannot "[keep] up with the

avant-garde" as the movement continues to push boundaries, so she launches back into a survey

of literary critical attention. John Donne takes his temporary "place in the sun," quite befitting as

his speaker in "The Sun Rising" questions why the Sun must "call on us?" In his well-known

poem, Donne positions the sun as a busybody, similar to the princes whose honor and wealth is

as "alchemy" or fake gold. McGinley masterfully plays on one of Donne's metaphysical love

poems, punning the belles lettres the critics repetitively "tolled" so much about. The critics then

turned to "Kafka (Franz)" the poet stylistically unique for his use of a German sentence structure

using the moments before the sentence ending to bring forth (revelations). Most vaguely

remember his first name "(Franz)." Every critic then turns to fiction and begins to "herald" the

Jazz Age Fitzgerald, and by the end of the stanza they are reduced to studying and creating

"Prominent Names" led by the novelist James.

Yet this poem, while poking fun at critics and their fixations, does have a self-reflexive

undertone for McGinley and her own isolated status as well as an insightful questioning of

criticism in general. The speaker acknowledges the "change when critics forgather," tentatively

crediting these changes to chance, and predicts the next author in the spotlight will be Willa

Cather. But the final stanza ends with an odd tone:

And I'm happy the great ones are thriving,
But what puzzles my head









Is the thought that they needed reviving.
I had never been told they were dead. (25-28)

After satirically cataloguing great authors in the beginning of the poem, this ending offers a

resolution, but a resolution portrayed somewhat askance. McGinley's speaker was never "told"

the writers were dead, punning on the idea that writers are never famous until they die while also

pondering the notion that literary works only become focal points when critics (purposefully or

not) begin to talk about them as masterpieces; art is not art until it is called art. McGinley very

much viewed herself a professional poet, but she seemed to know she was most popular with her

readers.

This poem, then, does more than satirize academic perceptions. It begins to question if the

"great ones" who are "thriving" have only acquired their status because they have somehow been

found. McGinley seems to subtly push the idea that the common everyday writers, the popular

writers, may have something to offer that has just not yet been "revived" or yet discovered, an

ironically fifties avant-garde idea. One cannot help but think of the second-wave feminist

movement that sparked the recovery of many female writers and their works. Ironically,

McGinley's old-fashioned taste and her sources of influence from canonized authors are what

help keep her out of the canon herself.

Eliding Expectations: "A Landscape of Love"

Comparative to poems like "Scientific Explanation of a Monday," "Landscape of Love"

(Feb. 1959) reveals McGinley's more serious and high intellectual style-what might be

considered her more poetical style- permeating the popular magazine stereotype and offers the

housewife confidence in her own role as wife. Using the guiding metaphor of landscape and

colonized territory, she presents love as a personal struggle, best known only to hardworking

colonists; colonists who have started a new land, founded their own grounds, and pioneered new









territory, much like McGinley herself. She seems to comment on the love and marriage articles

physically surrounding her work in LHJ, critiquing idealist advice columns while underscoring

columns like "Making Marriage Work" that portrayed love and marriage as an ongoing process.

Such an earnest poem requires a closer look.

The speaker of the poem cautions readers in the first section to "not believe them, Do not

believe what strangers" (McGinley, "Landscape" 1), have to say when they return from a "snug,

sunny, April-sheltering day / (Along the coast and guarded from great dangers)" (3-4). The

speaker begins her warning that "strangers" to love have nothing substantial to say, as they have

been "guarded" from the realities not seen on an April day. The speaker labels people (women)

as "ignorant" if they think love is a "lotus-island" (6) or "Capri" (7) instead of a "huge

landscape, perilous and stern" (8). Love at this point in the poem is not the marketed bliss of the

Brillo Soap Pads, far from the instant and long-lasting domestic bliss portrayed in the ads. Rather

love is

More poplared than the nations to the north,
More bird-beguiled, stream-haunted. But the ground
Shakes underfoot. Incessant thunders sound,
Winds shake the trees, and tides run back and forth
And tempests winter there, and flood and frost
In which too many a voyager is lost. (9-14)

Quite distant from her previous comic verse, "Landscape of Love" conveys its message in a

serious, mentoring tone. McGinley "window" is revealed in this poem, as she seeks to teach her

audience how to read the rest of the magazine. The formal yet varied iambic pentameter reflects

McGinley's adamant concern that her co-readers be able to distinguish reality from the romantic

images of advertisements and published articles. Love, marriage in particular, situates itself on

shaking ground with "incessant thunders," enduring times of both "flood and frost" (13)-not

quite an episode from Leave It To Beaver.









McGinley's second section exposes love as cultivated and personal. Beyond the elegant

dresses and family of four living in suburbia, the speaker describes love as the "country" (15)

that the "colonist" (15) discovers, hill by hill:

None knows this country save the colonist,
His homestead planted. He alone has seen
The hidden groves unconquerably green,
The secret mountains steepling through the midst.
Each is his own discovery. (15-19)

Love, here, is available to anyone, but unique to each individual pioneer. The "homestead" must

be "planted" for the "hidden groves" to be seen. The LHJ guiding articles prove useful perhaps,

but no article or column can tailor each individual relationship. The ads most definitely cannot

speak to each individual. The speaker says that "No chart / Has pointed him past chasm, bog,

quicksand... / Only the steadfast compass of the heart" (19-20, 22). Such lines seem almost

Wordsworthian in content and style. Yet the speaker ends with a cautioned commission for

women to "Turn a deaf ear, then, on the traveler who, / Speaking a foreign tongue, has never

stood / Upon love's hills or in a holy wood" (23-25). Relationships in this poem are the domain

of the people within them. For reading housewives, the poem offers empowerment and agency.

They alone know how to be a good housekeeper, wife and mother; they alone can see the

"hidden groves" beyond the touristy advertisements. Close reading McGinley's poetry positions

her as a poet writing both humor and metaphor, highlighting housewives themselves as able to

discern the joy and frustration within their own active roles, claiming for housewives a new

territory in which to create their own homesteads.

Eliding Expectations: "A Word to Hostess"

Nonetheless, excerpting McGinley's crafty intellectual satire from the NY is not to say she

did not include poems in the magazine that can be viewed just as domestic, sometimes more so,

than those she chose to publish in LHJ. Just has her more seriously erudite poems permeated the









traditional domestic LHJ, much of her work in the NY was geared specifically geared towards the

housewife. In "A Word to Hostesses" McGinley provides key instructions on how to be a good

hostess and emphasizes the skills it takes to succeed at this job. The experienced speaker relays

how "Celebrities are lonely when / They congregate with lesser men" (1-2) because when

"Wrenched from their coteries, they lack / Mirrors to send their image back" (7-8). Thus, there

are parameters to throwing a good dinner party; men must have equally interesting guests to

reflect their own high character or they will pout and become bored. Therefore, careful selection

of guests proves a primary rule in succeeding as hostess. For seat men "next [to] a Name, and lo!

/ How they most instantly will glow" (13-14). But this masterminded guest list and preplanned

table seating that will produce a successful party are not solely intended on behalf of the satisfied

guests, but are more necessary to expose the hostess as a skilled and trained success. For a

hostess who is not trained by the poem will have guests who do not "sparkle" (6) or "luster" (9)

or "glow" (14), whereas one who pays attention to instructions even a little can "make him

glitter" (28). Sparkles are the recognizable reward of the flawless and pristine housewife.









CHAPTER 4
WRITING THE MEAN: "THE DOLL HOUSE" AND "THE HONOR OF BEING A WOMAN"

Culminating McGinley's complex portrayal of the housewife, "The Doll House" published

in The New Yorker in 1954 was "one of McGinley's best-known poems" giving "further insight"

into relationships[] of mutability" (Wagner 24). Paralleling the mutable status of women in the

fifties, McGinley creates a more "conversational" tone that uses a child's plaything as a

microcosm to an adult's dream. The poem begins with a mother bringing an old doll house down

from the attic, after sorting through forgotten family relics-a "badminton set," "skis too good /

to give away," the "hamsters' cages" (McGinley, "Doll House" 3, 6). The doll house made it

through the years with her children, and now she brings "it down once more / To a bedroom,

empty now, on the second floor" (8). Without the interruptions and attention of children, the

mother begins to relive her own life. She self-reflexively sees not only the mutable relationship

with her children, but her own changing relationship to life as she restores the doll house to its

original prestige:

There was nothing much
That couldn't be used again with a bit of repair.
It was all there,
Perfect and little and inviolate.
So, with the delicate touch
A jeweler learns, she mended the rocking chair,
Meticulously laundered
The gossamer parlor curtains, dusted the grate,
Glued the glazed turkey to the flowered plate,
And polished the Lilliput writing desk. (10-19).

Through a constructed domestic space, the mother restores perfect detail to the doll house. With

the "delicate touch" of an artful master with her creation, the mother repeats those actions that

belabored her life before, this time producing a flawless physical image of perfect and

"inviolate" (13) domesticity. The doll house is controllable, manageable, and vulnerable beneath

the hands of the artist.









The mother's first interaction with the doll house is intentional, with explicit attention to

material appearance-she mends, she launders, she dusts, she glues, she polishes. All actions

revolve around routine housewife chores. Nothing goes by the wayside, rather every object

seems almost beyond perfect. The "glazed turkey" (18) adorns the "flowered plate" (19), while

the "grate" needs "dust[ing]" (17) almost as if it were truly in use. McGinley's excellent, though

more subtle, rhyme scheme links the "grate" and the "flowered plate," emphasizing their

relationship within the house. Associating two objects seemingly unrelated, a dirty grate

compared to an ornate plate, allows the structure of the poem to underscore the mother's creation

of detailed perfection. One object is just as important as the other in an unblemished house, for

anything out of order violates the ideal image. The house is only truly "inviolate" (13) once the

mother has performed her perfected duties as housekeeper. Yet, the mother is not contained

inside the house held prisoner at her Lilliput writing desk; she is, indeed, the creator of her own

ambition.

Yet she "squander[s]" (20) a day and a half, "[b]inding the carpets round with a ribbon

border" (22) until the house is "decorous and in order" (26). Nothing comes before the mother's

creation of complete order; real life is sacrificed to "playing house." Only after she places "the

kettle upon the stove" (24), has "the mirror's face / Scoured" (24-25), and "the formal sofa set in

its place" (25), can she rejoice with "grave delight" (23) that "It was a good house" (25). This

last line literally starts a new stanza, just as it starts a new moment in the mother's life. No detail

is left unattended and the house, perhaps like the mother as well, is not "good" until everything is

permanently and exactly in place:

Here was her private estate, a peculiar treasure,
Cut to her fancy's measure.
Now there was none to trespass, no one to mock
The extravagance of her sewing or her spending









(The tablecloth stitched out of lace, the grandfather's clock,
Stately upon the landing,
With its hands eternally pointing to ten past five).

Now all would thrive (54-61).

The doll house has become a microcosm of complete and interference-free domestic control.

Though in physical existence, the doll house is only a phantasmal construction of the mother's

desire. She can have a lace tablecloth and a grandfather clock, items not always affordable in

concrete existence; items laughed at by the prudent mom, scorned by the child-focus mother, and

longed for by the speaker. She is contained not in the house, but outside of it. For only

throughuh the panes" (67) was she able to "peer at her world reduced to the size of a dream"

(68).

Thus, like her dream, she is reduced to only touching her idealized domesticity.

And caught into this web of quietness
Where there was neither After or Before,
She reached her hand to stroke the unwithering grasses
Beside the small and incorruptible door (83-86).

The house, an archetypal symbol of domesticity, has achieved immortality, and the speaker is the

"sole mistress" (67). The "doll house stands as a symbol of permanence in a world of shifting

values and loves" (24), where the mother/housewife has become a deity. How tragic, then to

"stroke the unwithering grasses" and know that the entire glorified identity is a charade.

McGinley ends with the image of an "incorruptible door" in order to reemphasize the domestic

construction as fake. The walls, the doors, the windows are all physically tangible yet artificial.

McGinley offers journey into make-believe through "The Doll House," but she constantly

reminds the reader, and even the speaker of the poem, that perfection is only achieved through

simulation.









"The Honor of Being a Woman" is a unique prose work to examine McGinley as writing

the mean, lending more room to flesh out ideas only implied in short lines of poetry. In this LHJ

essay published in 1959,7 (also published in a collected volume of essays, The Province of the

Heart, 1959) McGinley weighs in on the public discussion of women. Taking in the advertised

images of women, she presents a public opinion of her own. She opens the essay with a real life

anecdote, enticing her readers through the classic humor of husband-and-wife banter in which

her husband tried to pay her a compliment. She writes about the dialogue with her husband:

"You know, dear," he remarked fondly, "you're a wonderful girl. You think like a man."

I can remember refuting him passionately. "But I don't! I don't. What a horrid thing to
say!" (McGinley 13)

This first comedic dialogue disarms the reader with humorous domesticity and predicates

McGinley's first premise that women are a different "race" than men, a race that does "not want

to think like men or feel like men or act like men-only like women and human beings" (13).

She sees women as "suddenly enfranchised, hastily given the keys of all cities and all liberties"

like "one of the new states created after a war" (13). McGinley views critics like Friedan and her

followers as similar to an unrestricted kid in a candy store. In the midst of such criticism,

McGinley cites women as "bemoaned and praised" in public discussion, "deafened by the noise

of controversy" (14). Again the binary appears. McGinley's "women" refer mainly to those

housewives "bemoaned" by feminists and "praised" by the rest of the country. Observing this

conundrum around her, confronted with the deafening ads and the noisy critics herself,

McGinley recognized women caught in the either/or side of the publicly vocalized controversy.





7 Although published in LHJ, the version of this essay used here will be cited from McGinley's later published book
of essays, The Province of the Heart in order to use a more condensed text with accurate page numbers.









Agreeing with Friedan, McGinley felt women should be educated about their lot in life.

"The Honor of Being a Woman," then, is an essay intended primarily to encourage "girls" to "be

realistic about their chances" (18) in the world at large. Unlike Friedan, she offers women a

middle-of-the-road approach to this great discussion that is going on around them. McGinley

valued femininity; she valued the unique powerful position and the unrivaled ability to cultivate

relationships of a mother and a wife, and conservatively defended women's right to enjoy those

traditional roles. For her, women's exceptional ability to foster familial and intimate

relationships is the quality that segregates women into a different race, gives them their

individuality and gives them their power. Because women had chosen to go to the "marketplace"

she honored them as "alarmingly adaptable" (18), but the "price of success" often became "a

grinding, gouging, knock-about struggle in which the essential feminine quality is lost (this even

in light of McGinley's own marketed career). And in the end it is only the truly gifted or the very

dedicated who win through to the top" (18). Realistically, these comments are quite logical.

McGinley does not debunk women who have followed their careers, she herself is one, but she

poses the possibility that a secretarial office job may be just as boring as being a housewife.

Similarly routine and contained, secretarial jobs (one of the most popular and accepted jobs for

women) relocated housewifery duties outside the house. As "The Scientific Explanation of a

Monday" highlights, housewives were functioning secretaries for their own households.

Yet while she lays claim to the honor of being a woman at home, McGinley seems alarmed

at the growing numbers of young marriages and divorces across the country. Though her issue

with divorce generates from her Catholic background, she faults society for pushing women into

a "vocation for which almost nothing has prepared them" before "the ink [is] scarcely dry on

their [high school] diplomas" (18). Here is one fault in education; it does not prepare women for









the work and skill involved in being a housewife. Remembering "A Word to Hostesses,"

McGinley's poetry comically attempts to fill those gaps. But there is also a fault in perception.

Young women view the ads, and see ideal marriages and love told from "tourists" as McGinley

elucidates in "Landscape of Love," just like women who would eventually read The Feminine

Mystique, and see the unending opportunity to follow their careers. Neither option was fully

plausible. McGinley found the possibility of becoming both a housewife and a woman pursuing

her career, but more so, she dictated the honor of being a woman.

As portrayed in advertisements, marriage looked easy, wifehood looked instinctual, and

love seemed everlasting. McGinley espouses, "They [women] should have been told long ago

that life is seldom fair, and that woman's chief honor is to know that and be able to surmount it"

(19). This social idea is perhaps similar to knowing the boundaries of poetic form and being able

to manipulate it. McGinley found the pride in being a woman, the respect in being a wife, and

the gift of being a mother. Unlike the ads, she is not claiming any of the above roles of

housewives to be perfect and pristine, but she advocates the esteem found in enacting those roles

well. Returning to the idea of McGinley as "housewife poet," perhaps writing verse within

contained forms is analogous to the performance of housewives. Figuring out the puzzle of end

rhymes might be comparable to deducing the perfect seating arrangements for a dinner party.

Business women held no more credit and skill than a housewife, for "business holds no rougher

ordeals than does a housekeeping existence" (19). Housewifery was hard work. It could be

dreary at times, McGinley does not dodge the reality of routine and drudgery. But more so,

housewifery was physical, mental, emotional, and professional work.

To reemphasize housewives' work and skill, she goes back to her humor and includes a

laughable story of a saint entering a monastic life who had once been married with a child. This









saint comments, "'Nothing,' she exclaimed candidly, 'in the rigors of a convent community can

equal, for difficulty, the day-by-day exasperations of household living"' (20). The story is comic,

but McGinley, again, makes her point very seriously within the layers of humor. Like Friedan,

McGinley sees the "problem that has no name" as an issue characterizing housewives in the

fifties, but rather than find a career to complete their identity, McGinley suggests they adjust

perception and education.

In an effort to combat both the ads and second-wave feminism, McGinley published "The

Honor of Being a Woman" with a sense of urgency. She passionately felt the need for upcoming

women to understand what they were marrying into. She desired for women to both know their

possibilities in life and also recognize their limitations. McGinley exalted the decision to be a

housewife not as entering into a lifetime of unhappiness, but as gaining the respect and honor of

having a domestic occupation. She ends her essay with an urgent plea to women around the

nation:

Our greatest victories have always been moral ones. Without relinquishing our new
learning or our immediate opportunities, we must return to a more native sphere. Let us
teach our daughters not self-realization at any cost but the true glory of being a woman-
sacrifice, containment, pride, and pleasure in our natural accomplishments. Let us win back
honor. The honors will take care of themselves. (22)

For McGinley, women needed to embrace their skills as housewives without letting go of the

progress women had made. Such an action was imperative to educate "daughters" who would

soon question whether to embrace domestic ideals or pursue their own career. McGinley broke

through the ads, and broke through the criticism to allow women to be both housewives and

occupational women, hoping these women, regardless of their choice would recognize and

acknowledge their honorable position in life.









CHAPTER 5
CONCLUSION

In the scheme of McGinley's poetry, nothing seems more prevalent than her undying

tribute to housewives and their feminine capabilities as at least theoretically equivalent to

professional work. Excerpting one of McGinley's essays, provides an example of what seems at

first to be a random, laughable portrayal of women, but further illustrates women's "common

sense and self-reliance." For "woman, as McGinley identifies her, is also a realist; she is

perceptive to the worlds around her and to the relationships within them (Wagner 23). McGinley

writes about women:

I like them for their all-around, all-weather dependability. I like them because they are
generally so steady, realistic, and careful about tidying up after a hot shower. I admire
them for their prudence, thrift, gallantry, common sense, and knobless knees, and because
they are neither so vain nor so given to emotion as their opposite numbers. I like the way
they answer letters promptly, put shoe trees in their shoes at night, and are so durable
physically. Their natures may not be so fine or their hearts so readily touched as man's, but
they are not so easily imposed on either. (23)

McGinley viewed women as intensely practical and virtuous; they were not advertisement

models and they, quite honestly, could not have all become professional working women, nor did

they all want to. McGinley positions Friedan as actually similar to the ads that Friedan so vocally

opposed. Forcing women to feel guilty about not being a career-striver was very definitely linked

to forcing women to feel ashamed of their inabilities as domestic models. Thus, McGinley

boasted of being a "housewife poet" as the encompassing figure of a dual role for women in the

fifties, breaking down the categorized binary. Women, realists, could read both LHJ and the NY,

they could have a career or stay at home. McGinley herself could publish in a popular or

academic magazine, she could be a housewife or win a Pulitzer. The categories were never

completely separate. One side of the given binaries always permeated the other.









Though McGinley was, indeed, a conservative critic and writer, and she very much played

toward a white middle and upper class audience, she forces us to reconsider the categories of

domesticity. Using light verse as a means to captivate a wide popular and intellectual audience,

she offered women humor instead of boredom or dissatisfaction. Forgotten by the academy,

McGinley deserves to reside beside her fellow women advocates like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne

Rich. She was, too, writing for the everyday woman, writing to push out ideas of containment

from society. She just offered comprise instead of complete rejection. She commented,

"Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its solidity. It is what makes nations great and marriages

happy" (McGinley, "Suburbia" 114). McGinley promoted moderation and finding contentment

and discursive in the same lifestyle. Adhering to the conventions of both light verse and fifties

decorum, McGinley deconstructed binaries that have come to label 1950s housewives.









WORKS CITED

Brunner, Edward. Cold War Poetry. Urbana: University of Illinois P, 2001.

Bryant, Marsha. "Plath, Domesticity, and the Art of Advertising." College Literature.
29.3(2002): 17-35.

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1963.

Fritzer, Penelope, and Bartholomew Bland. Merry Wives and Others: a History of Domestic

Humor Writing. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland and Company, Inc., 2002.

Hanley, Shawn "Queen for a Day." History web pages. 16 Dec 1996. 24 Oct 2007


Hollander, John, ed. American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse. New York: Library of
America, 2003.

Kaledin, Eugenia. Daily Life in The United States, 1940-1959 Shifting Worlds. Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 2000.

Langer, Cassandra L. A Feminist Critique: How feminism has changedAmerican society,
culture, and how we live from the 1940s to the present. New York: IconEditions, 1996.

Matthews, Glenda. "Just a Housewife ": The Rise and Fall ofDomesticity in America. Oxford:
Oxford UP, 1987.

McCarthy, J.D., ed. Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Phyllis McGinley. New York: Random
House, 2003.

McGinley, Phyllis. "Calendar for Parents." Ladies Home Journal Feb. 1952: 156.

-. Foreword W.H. Auden. Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades with Seventy New
Poems. New York: Viking Press, 1961.

-. "The Honor of Being a Woman." The Province of the Heart. New York: Dell Publishing
Company, Inc., 1959.

-. "Landscape of Love." Ladies Home Journal Feb 1959: 150.

-. "Scientific Explanation of a Monday." Ladies Home Journal Mar. 1954: 96.

-. Sixpence in Her Shoe. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1965.

-"Suburbia, Of Thee I Sing." The Province of the Heart. New York: Dell Publishing
Company, Inc., 1959.









Moskowitz, Eva. 'It is Good to Blow Your Top': Women's Magazines and a Discourse of
Discontent, 1945-1965. Journal of Women's History. 8.3 (1996): 66-99.

Plath, Sylvia. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. New York: Anchor, 2000.

Ramazani, Jahan. "A Transnational Poetics." American Literary History, 18.2(2006): 332-359.

Wagner, Linda Welshimer. Phyllis McGinley. Chicago: Twayne Pub, 1970.

Walker, Nancy A. "The Ladies' Home Journal, 'How America Lives' and the Limits of Cultural
Diversity. Media History. 4.2 (2000): 129-138.

Young, William H. and Nancy K. Young. The 1950s. American Popular Culture Though
History. Ed. Ray B. Browne. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Megan Anne Leroy was born in Dublin, Georgia. She completed her undergraduate degree

in English with a minor in history at the University of Georgia in Summer 2005. After

completing her thesis at the University of Florida, she will pursue a doctoral degree focused on

20th century American poetry and culture. Her areas of interest continue to include modern and

women's poetry, gender studies, and intersections between literature and visual culture.





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1 WRITING THE MEAN: PHYLLIS MCGI NLEY AND AMERICAN DOMESTICITY By MEGAN ANNE LEROY A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Megan Anne Leroy

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3 For Mom and Dad

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS First and forem ost I want to thank my mom and dad. Without their love and support this project would not exist. My mother persistently fuel ed my desire to study poetry through example and encouragement. My father has been invaluable as a model of determination and constant source of support no matter how many times his cell phone rang. Also, my director Marsha Bryant, and my reader, David Leverenz, were instrumental in the success of this project. I appreciate their continual support and belief in me as a scholar.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4 ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................6 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................8 A Critical Survey....................................................................................................................10 Housewife Poet: Refusing Models of W omens and Postwar Poetry................................. 11 2 MCGINLEY AND LIGHT VERSE....................................................................................... 16 3 MCGINLEY COMPLICATING TH E IDEA OF HOUSEWIFE .......................................... 19 Eliding Expectations: A Landscape of Love.......................................................................31 Eliding Expectations: A W ord to Hostess........................................................................... 33 4 WRITING THE MEAN: THE DOLL HOUS E AND T HE HONOR OF BEING A WOMAN......................................................................................................................... ......35 5 CONCLUSION..................................................................................................................... ..42 WORKS CITED.................................................................................................................... ........44 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................46

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6 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts WRITING THE MEAN: PHYLLIS MCGI NLEY AND AMERICAN DOMESTICITY By Megan Anne Leroy December 2007 Chair: Marsha Bryant Major: English American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinl ey was a prolific writer and publisher throughout her career (roughly 1920-1960), finding coveted space in both popular and academic magazines like the Ladies Home Journal and the New Yorker McGinley was known in the literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in humor and satire. But despite her productive career, McGinley was neglected by the second-wave feminist critics even as they sought to recover and expand new female writers like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich. As a result, McGinley has become virtually unknown in contemporary scholarship and has faded from cultural memory. Why has she been rendered so invisible to academia? My thesis answers this question by examini ng the perceived limitations of McGinleys poetry and prose within LHJ and the NY I posit that McGinleys i gnored status stems partly from her own recognition of herself as a domestic housewife poet before the more liberal Anne Sexton popularized the term. As postwar domes ticity became taboo for feminist critics, McGinley audaciously embraced the housewife. She al so chose to write in formalized light verse when the emerging modernist and avant-garde movements in poetry focused on free verse and serious philosophical issues. By labeling hersel f as housewife poet and continuing to use light verse, McGinley was stigmatized as a matronly comical poetess, whose wr iting refused to take

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7 seriously the bonds that feminist critics were wo rking to break through. She was, rather, writing the mean, taking ideas from both traditional values and contemporary womens rights to create a hybrid, or a both/and, option for women in America. This thesis evidence is limited to 1950s Americ a, as this decade is both the golden age of the American housewife and the prime of McGinley s career. Through her work McGinley offers compromise to fifties housewiv es; she gives them hope, she give s them reason, and above all she gives them humor.

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8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION To be a housewife is a difficult, a wrenching, so m etimes an ungrateful job if it is looked on only as a job. Regarded as a profession, it is the noblest as it is the most ancient of the catalogue. Let none persuade us different ly or the world is lost indeed. Phyllis McGinley, Sixpence in Her Shoe American 20th century poet Phyllis McGinley wa s a prolific write r and publisher throughout her career (roughly 1920-1970), finding coveted space in both popular and highbrow magazines like the Ladies Home Journal and the New Yorker She even won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for Times Three (selected poems) Aside from her sheer volume of textual production, McGinley was also known in the literary circles as a brilliant light verse poet, specializing in humor and satiric tone. But despite her dynami c career, McGinley wa s neglected by secondwave feminist literary critics even as they s ought to bring her postwar contemporaries Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath into the canon. As a resu lt, McGinley has become virtually unknown in contemporary scholarship. Why has she been rendered so invisible in the academy? My thesis answers this question by examini ng and returning to McGinleys poetry and prose to question the limited per ceptions of her work. I posit that McGinleys neglected status stems from two major issues: she does not fit reigning models of womens poetry or postwar poetry, and she adopts light verse. McGinley embraces domesticity at the start of second-wave feminism while she eschews free verse amidst th e rise of both modernist avant-garde poetry and confessional poetry. And yet, McGinley need s to be included among major women poets because her bridging of both LHJ s and the NY s presentation of postwar domesticity complicates the image of the housewife poet. Mc Ginley was what I will term writing the mean. She offered American women an option in betw een the fictitious perfect housewife and poets

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9 who rebelled against domestic ity. She created a both/and pos ition for homemaking women to occupy, negotiating the space that had yet to be defined. The peak of McGinleys career coincides with the stereotypica l golden age of the American housewife; thus, I will focus on the decade of 1950-1960. I must clarify that McGinleys targeted audience was, like Betty Friedans, white, middle-class, and educated women (a major c onstituency of LHJ s demographic). These women of the 1950s were dichotomously labeled either super-heroine s uburban moms managing to raise respectful children and have a full course dinner waiting for their bread-winning husbands, or they were liberated and enlightened intellectuals fighting fo r feminist rightstake your pick ladies, June Cleaver, or Sylvia Plath. Although recent criticism, headed by Elaine Tyler May, continually revises traditional history to s how how fifties housewives were actually breaki ng out of their domestic containment instead of existing passively within it, the only internal motive posited is often boredom or unhappiness with domestic roles. McGinley, in writing the mean, expands the either Cleaver or Plath, happy or bored, binary and creates a mu ltifaceted identity, modeling not a limited choice for women, but rather a merged alternativethe mean between two extremes. In her masterful light verse style, embedded in literary tradition, McGinley fashioned a self-given dual label and refused to be categorized as either housewife or poe t, opting instead for housewife poet long before Sexton popularized the term. Unlike Sexton, McGinley was not being ironic or self-deprecating, she was choosing a professional career. Housewife poet was not a label to be denigrated or mocked; it was an honorable and pur posefully constructed identity. McGinley resolutely chose to write th e mean and marketed herself as such; thus she must complicate our current notions of postwar American domesticity.

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10 A Critical Survey McGinleys own bridged status as a housewife and poet b ecom es clearer when we look at her biography. Born in 1905, McGinley graduated from the University of Utah and moved to New York in 1929, where she simultaneously tau ght high school English and published poetry. She married Charles L. Hayden in 1936, and had her first child, Julie, by 1939 and a second, Patsy, in 1941. Traversing both personal and pr ofessional expectations, McGinley was an educated, published writer with a college degree, yet she still had two ki ds, a husband, and an inhome job. She portrayed traditional domesticity while she became quite invested in her poetry. She also had the money to hire a maid/nanny, creating more time for her poetic profession. Extending into pop culture and literary culture, McGinley published eight volumes of poetry, as well as individual poems published in acclaimed magazines such as Harpers The New Yorker, Ladies Home Journal and Saturday Evening Post. Magazines like Ladies Home Journal ( LHJ ) and The New Yorker ( NY ) reveal the breadth of McGinleys work. A best-selling popular poet from the 1930s-1960s, McGinley won both the Edna St. Vincent Millay Memorial Award in 1954 for The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley and the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for Times Three (selected poems). In addition to the books of poetry, McGinley also wrote childrens books and a collection of prose essays, The Province of the Heart (1959), in which she published her opinions of American social codes and trad itions, gracefully yet persistently embracing domesticity as a worthy institution. Though McGinley has long since ceased to be a best-selling author, sh e was quite popular throughout her own career. J.D. McCarthy comments on McGinleys recognition in one of the few books inclusive of her work, Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Phyllis McGinley: So popular was her work, and so canny were her portr aits of middle-class matrons, their hapless husbands and conniving children, that for two gene rations McGinleys workher books flew off

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11 the shelves, tens of thousands of copies at a timewas as well-known and as well-heeded as anyones (McCarthy 43). McGinleys popularity with middle class wives and mothers most likely added to her scorn from critics. Few popular works and popular poets have been embraced critically by anyone other than consumers. No twithstanding her current absence, she was a celebrated poet in her time. Housewife Poet: Refusing Models of Womens and Postwar Poetry W hereas feminist literary critics targeted postwar domesticity as inscribing female containment, McGinley audaciously clai med herself a housewife poet, immediately stigmatizing herself to them as the matronly poete ss heralding domestic containment. Contrary to her marked reputation as an average poet, howev er, McGinley was actuall y crafting a much more complex, critical voice/viewpoint of modern literary history. She combined the label of housewife with that of poet and created a merged identity. McGinley refused to be just housewife while she denied being solely a poet. Crafting verse that wa s domestic in content but formal in poetic structure, McGinley market ed herself as the witty author of poems like Calendar for Parents, which was publis hed in the February 1952 issues of LHJ In this amusing poem, McGinley transforms the monotony of raisi ng children into a comical, yet still realistic, rant: Call the birthday party off: Juniors down with the whooping cough Let no Christmas kin invite us, Thats our date for tonsillitis Lives there tot with health so firm He never harbored festal germ? If such there be, God save his powers, But hes not chick nor child of ours. (McGinley, Calendar 1-2, 7-8, 14-16)

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12 This poem laughingly comments on domestic li fe while occasionally alternating to a serious critical tone. It is clear, however, th at Calendar for Parents is a domestic poem, embracing the family and motherhood as worthy c ontent. McGinley comi cally depicts fifties family life as one that revolves solely around the children, showcasing humor and illustrating both the burden and joy of kids, the sparkling and the dirty sides of being a housewife. As William Young and Nancy Young state in The 1950s Having children was t outed as the highest form of happiness; a woman fulfilled herself by bearing children (Young 7). McGinley was aware of this reigning idea through her own experi ence as a mother and a writer. She made a savvy marketing choice to embrace domesticity in the fifties, producing c ontent and context in poetry that would sell. McGinley knew her public audience and fashioned her poetry to meet the needs of her readers. Yet, one can see how a poem like Calendar for Parents might be abandoned by feminist critics who were figh ting against the containment of women as housewives. To them, McGinleys poetry was doubly old-fashioned, both in ideals and in rhyming couplet form. One such critic, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963 right as McGinleys career began to fa de from memory. But Friedan sought to identif y issues and publicly address conclusions that were already prevalent in the 1950s. Like McGinley, Friedan addressed white middle class, educated women, but she viewed profession alized housewifery as incredibly limited and containe d, stifling womens potential and allowing them only insular domesticity (Friedan 51). Faulting womens magazinesadvertisements televisions, movies, [and] novels (43), as instigators of the probl em that has no name (19), Friedan famously proclaimed for housewives, We can no longer ignore that voice with in women that says, I want something more than my husband and my children and my home (32). Friedan documented the

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13 majority of white, middle-class housewives as unhappy and unsatisfied with their roles. According to her evidence, fifties ads suffocat ed women by creating unachievable ideals and prompting the feminine mystique. Such was th e other choice for womeneither embrace your inner June Cleaver, or recognize your su ffering and turn to a new occupation. Writers like McGinley who embraced domestic ideals did not fit in Freidans view of womens poetry because Friedan saw McGinley as stifling womens options, and promoting unhappy housewifery. Freidan comments about domestic women writers: a new breed of women writers began to write about themselves as if they were just housewives, reveling in a comic world of childrens pranks and eccentric washing machines and Parents Night at the PTAWhen Shirley Jackson, who a ll her adult life has been an extremely capable writer, pursuing a craft far more demanding than bedmaking, and Jean Kerr, who is a playwright, and Phyllis McGinley, who is a poet, picture themselves as housewives, they may or may not overlook the housekeeper or maid who really makes the beds. But they implicitly deny the vision, and the satisfying hard work involved in their stories, poe ms, and plays. They deny th e lives they lead, not as housewives, but as individuals (Friedan 57). Friedan saw these Housewife Writers (57) as a group of women duping their readers by offering them temporary humor. She credits McGinley as a good craftsma n, but criticizes her for lending no substantial ideas to change the majority of housewives lives. In her questionings, Friedan found the edu cated women in suburbia to be living problematic situations. In her book A Feminist Critique Cassandra Langer describes Friedans issue as one of untapped potential: Rarely di d they [housewives] have the energy to pursue professional careers, take university courses, or fulfill their creative possibilities in any way. When they complained of feeling listless or told their doctors their lives were pointless, they were told to take Miltown or Valium, buy a ne w dress, or try a new hairstyle (Langer 132). Housewifery, for Friedan, limited women to the contained role of mother/housekeeper/wife, offering them no option for progressing their own interests and careerst he presumed highest achievementand instead leaving them with the presumed mise ry of housework. From this

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14 perspective, McGinley seemed to be only critically useful as a target example of domestic poet. Contrary to McGinleys liminal scholarly status, Sylvia Plat h is enshrined as a poet of domesticity. Plath has become one of Am ericas major poets and literatures great commodity (Bryant 17), whereas McGinley has been ignored. Plath began publishing at the height of McGinleys career, also using magazines like LHJ and the NY as a marketplace. McGinley and Plath actually appeared in the same LHJ December 1959 issue, McGinley publishing Office Party and Plath publishing The Second Winter. McGinley published multiple childrens books; Plath wrote a childr ens book but couldnt get it placed. Plath authored many poems referencing domesticity, often mocking the role of housewife, but nonetheless shaping it. In Plath, Domesticity, and the Art of Advertising Marsha Bryant proposes Plath as an author who [l]ike ads explores performative as well as mechanical dimensions of domesticity. She draws the reader into the intimate spaces of the home (kitchen, bedroom, nursery), only to reveal a stage (Bry ant 22). Also in the middle of second-wave feminism, Plath could be embr aced by feminist critics because she revealed the ludicrous performativity of the perfect housew ife. Women writers like Plath were precursors to the official movement eventually placed alongside Betty Friedan. McGinley, Plaths literary equal and rival, was not as clearly aligned with feminist revisi ons. Considered, perhaps, a more highly skilled poet due to her intense verse and own marginal exis tence, Plath has long been part of the literary canon. Even while tackling domestic issues, we can safely assume she would have balked at the label housewife poet, and though Plath published satirical verse and poems about domesticity, she rarely, if ever, wrote light verse. Plath even commented in her journal, Phyllis McGinley is

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15 outlight verse: shes sold hers elf (Plath 360). Clearly, Plath thought little of McGinley and her work. McGinley, it seems, was purposef ully ignored in lieu of writers like Plath and Friedan, too much of a housewife for many feminist critics. Wagners Phyllis McGinley was even perhaps recognized and then passed over because McGinley s work was still too domestic in 1970. She still seems to exist somewhat lodged in that cat egory of average domestic poet, in conservative opposition to the radical labels of the aforementioned women. But her unique position in critical perspectives of literature and history cannot go unnoticed. McGinley is an important figure, complicating our notions of post-war and wome ns poetry, and questioning how those canonical categories were constructed. A closer look at McGinleys work amidst images of post-war domesticity will not allow her to be so easily st igmatized. Her poetry positions itself as a mean to the binary options for the 1950s housewife.

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16 CHAPTER 2 MCGINLEY AND LIGHT VERSE McGinley does not slot easil y into models for wom ens or post-war poetry, but perhaps what made her work seem even more insignificant was her choice to write in light verse. The popular light verse market was a practical deci sion for McGinley as a professional poet and unofficial critic. As Wagner presents, McGinl eys writing career began when she discovered that the New Yorker paid higher rates for light poetry than for serious. That there was a demand for light verse was the important cons ideration for this young English teacher-turnedwriter. She wanted to live from her writing; obviously she needed a market (Wagner 15). McGinley fashioned herself around a market, a dvertising herself as a humorous housewife poet who could make light of routine responsibilit ies. Throughout her writing career this market continued to thrive, allowing Mc Ginley to publish both skillful writing and social criticism. Therefore, McGinley was able to enjoy her ow n domestic role as housewife while practicing considerable talent in he r literary label of poet. But light verse deserves more credit as a high ly polished form of poetry as well as a useful tool for McGinley. Though light domestic verse is often cast aside as insignificant, standing just outside the categories by which verse received its accreditation (Brunner 245), [f]inding the right tone between acidity and bl andness, drawing unexpected sources of wit from the banal, and exposing the absurd without seeming either cruel or whining is no small feat (Fritzer and Bland 3). Like writing light verse, housewifery took seemingly effortless skill, nuance, and balance; it, too, required a balancing act of mother/housekeeper/hostess where wit and humor were employed just as much as in McGinleys poetr y. Delicacy in awkward situations not only was the role of the hostess housewife, but also could be said of Mc Ginleys verse as well. Both

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17 professions benefit from perfect form and the abili ty to be light with ones feet. Writing in light verse may have been a more strategic choice for McGinley than we have yet to acknowledge. Let us remember Calendar for Parents a nd its primary goal to laugh at the monotony of raising children. Mothers who might have been forced to Call the birthday party off (1) because Juniors down with the whooping cough (2) needed the ability to laugh at ludicrous circumstances that forced them to stay within the house, within their domestic boundaries. When women didnt find perfection in domesticity, McGinleys humo r allowed women to use her poetry as a model and a means of escape. In th is poem, every major holiday and event revolve around the children who routinely get sick, bril liantly emphasized by McGinleys multisyllabic end rhymesthe plight of us cedes to tonsilli tis, the parental power s lend solely to the child of ours. Borrowing formal rhyme and iambic tetrameter from high poetic form, McGinley places parents at the whims of their childrens health. The speakers imperative commands allow no room for discussion of prio rities. Using generic names like Junior and Sister, McGinley markets her poem to every mother. A mother and wi fe herself, McGinley, also confronted with the image of happy housewife, proceeds to make fun of it. Yet, underlying the comic surface lies a true frustration with children who do routinely become ill and force changes in plans. Well-versed in the sacrifi ces of motherhood, McGinley offers comedy and poetry to counter expected rout ine. The comical domestic vers e allows McGinley to unveil the drudgery and frustrations of housewives without looking unacceptable as a bad mother who is not always fulfilled by her children. Many poets preceding McGinley dabbled in humor writing, including canonized names like Emily Dickinson or Edna St. Vincent Mi llay. W.H. Auden, who introduced McGinleys Pulitzer Prize winning volume Times Three also wrote light verse and offered his own quasi-

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18 definition: There is a certain way of writing which one calls light, but underneath it can carry a great depth of emotion (Wagner 36). These po ets, already secure in their own tradition, recognized the skill in creating light domestic verse and were still ap plauded with critical attention. McGinley wrote brilliant light verse, often in perfec t form and rhyme, manipulating almost every poetic form and technique. There is no denying her skill. But more importantly, similarly to those light verse masters before he r, she used the medium to espouse her views on society. Based on the context in which her poetry wa s published, McGinley used light verse to subtly rebuke the images and ads that were surrounding her poetry. She mocked the advertised elegant perfection of a housewife and comically described rou tine household duties. McGinley once labeled her own work with a defensive spout: Theres a hell of a lo t of straight social criticism (18). Despite the comic overtones, she overtly saw her writing as more than entertaining humor. She said agai n, in 1960, It wasnt until Wordswor th that there was this great dividing line between serious poet ry and light verse (41). This added to her earlier comment in 1954: What I have been consciously trying to do recentlyever since Ive had enough confidence to consider myself a poetis to narro w the gulf between light and serious verse. One other thing: I always try to share with my readers the i mmediacy of my own delight or despair of the world as I see it through my window (41). McGinl ey seems to ask us herself to reconsider light verse as more than a witty way to make a living. The genre offered her the perfect mode of writing the mean. Couched in humo r and wit, she could reveal housewifery as an honorable and skilled profession, a view that was not critically popular at the time, or at least became less so as she continued to write. Li ght verse gave her a wider and more popular audience while also adding to her domestic stigma as an average poet.

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19 CHAPTER 3 MCGINLEY COMPLICATING THE IDEA OF HOUSEWIFE Not only is McGinley s work in conflict with traditional models of womens and postwar poetry through her embrace of domesticity and use of light verse, but she also complicates the accepted view of the American 50s housewife. In order to see McGinleys intricate workings with this image, it is important to capture the cultural moment of the American housewife. In the 1950s, the nation stood at an unprecedented juncture after a nation-wide depression, two major world wars, and a recent boomi ng economy. Such a roller coaster of events encouraged a national embrace of secure and moral valueshom e, family, and hard work. American women, fell directly within this ne w social desire by providing fi rm anchors of housewives and comforting nurturers in both reality and mark eted images. Women, then, came to define themselves through this ongoing and increasingly emphasized role of housekeeper, mother, and wife.1 Eugenia Kaledin encapsulate s the status of women in Daily Life in the United States, 1940-1959 Shifting Worlds : The high marriage and birth rates and the low di vorce rate intertwined naturally with the feminine mystiquethe idea that womans fulfillment was in the home and nowhere elseThey came slowly to rea lize that sex discrimination could be subtle as well as overteven as they played the roles of wi fe and mother that society demanded. Most women were content for a time to make the most of these old-fashioned roles.2 (Kaledin 103) As new anchors of the nuclear family, wome n also became primary American consumers. Though women may have been temporarily content (or contained), as Kaledin points out, they also continued to recognize the housewife conundrum. Confronted with polished images, women 1 Not to mention the unending list of other roles: cook, hostess, lover, etc. 2 Kaledin continues to point out that many women were still working after World War II, but this paper will focus on that section of women who considered themselves housewives in work and in dutythose not currently employed outside of the household.

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20 were commissioned to become perfect housewiv es though few had the means to achieve the advertised perfection even it if it was theoretically achievable. Advertisements in magazines like LHJ and the NY displayed glamorous images of housewifery on the same pages that McGinley published her poems. These cultural and contextual images of perfection perpetuated the idea of housewifery that both Friedan and McGinley countered through their own respective means. Radio, television, and movies (the same ones Friedan hated, McGinl ey too) produced image after im age of the pristine housewife, firmly in control of herself, her house, a nd her family. While popular media portrayed American women as possibly the best-dressed housekeepers ever seen (Young 10), women were bombarded by the display of elegant dresses, high heels, [and] jewelry (10). Advertisements, especially, escalated this pristi ne housewife image to insist women smile as they dust and vacuum (10), even finding fulfillm ent in the drudgery of cleaning their homes. Presumably an unachievable model, the organized housewife marked the decade, sending an explicit guilty message to women, and leaving no room for error. If wo mens houses werent as clean as the ones in the pictur es, and women werent as happy about motherhood as the everpersistent smiling faces were in the ads, they should feel guilty because they were unworthy housewives. McGinley will take specific issue with this idea. Again, in The 1950s, William Young and Nancy Young comment on a true exte nt of the message by illustrating how [c]omfort and convenience became the watc hwords, and chores li ke cooking and cleaning got blended into a happy lifestyle. Kitchensthe multi-purpose command centers of many new suburban homesmerged with the laundry, dining, and family rooms, as fun and recreation became the focus of modern living (Young 10-11). Some advertisements presented housewives that even [wore] crowns labeling w omen as queens of domesticity (11).

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21 Most remember Frigidaires Queen for a Da y campaign that turned into a nationally broadcast television show in the fifties. This television series immortalized the housewife as a queen of domesticity. In the show, J ack Bailey interviewed four women and whoever was in the worst shapeasse ssed by the audience applause meterwas crowned Queen For A Day TV Guide called Bailey television's No. 1 mesmerizer of middle-aged females and most relentless di spenser of free washing machinesIt was exactly what the general public wanted....We got what we were after. Five thousand Queens got what they were after. And the TV audience cried their eyes out, morbidly delighted to find there were people worse off than they were, and so they got what they were after.3 The chosen woman was literally draped in a sable-trimmed re d velvet robe and a jeweled crown to publicly announce her ineptness as a housewife in addition to her publicized queendom. Fifties media offered unachievable exp ectations and guilt-laden models with few alternative images for women; housewifery was the epitome of success and happiness in life, not to mention a patriotic symbol of secu rity amidst the looming Cold War. Perhaps most importantly, however, magazine readership was imperative to the image of the 50s housewife, as most of the ads of perfection resided within their covers. Friedan specifically pointed fing ers at magazines like LHJ as displaying happy housewives and overwhelming the average reader with a monthl y onslaught of perfection while maintaining the national status quo.4 LHJ ranked at the top of widely read womens magazines; over 5 million women subscribed to the Journal in 1955 (Kaledin 103). Fifties womens magazines were not simply a place for the latest appliance ad or the most recent marriage column, but rather an entry into American society and an influence on it. Women bought LHJ because they saw 3All quotes taken from Shawn Hanleys paper at http ://history.sandiego.edu/gen/projects/hanley/queen.html 4 Term taken from David Abrahmson, q uoted in Walkers article: because the large mass-circulation magazines were predicated on a sense of national community, all had an editorial interest in perpetuating the status quo (5) (Walker 130).

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22 themselves, as well as who they wanted to be, re flected in it. It was, in fact, The Magazine Women Believed in. Housewives were a popular subject of discussion. At the same time, LHJ also reflected changing social customs and codes, a guidebook for women and a mark of American culture. Nancy Walker summarizes the impact of LHJ in her intriguing article, The Ladies Home Journal How America Lives and the Limits of Cultural Diversity: [M]agazines for women are not the result of monolithic editorial visions, but instead the product of complex negotiations with a variet y of cultural forces Fluctuations in the economy brought about by the Depression, Worl d War II rationing and shortages, and postwar prosperity affected everything from fashions to household design and technology. New products and new areas of expertise were reflected in articles and advise columns. Developments in medicine, child care, and educ ation, not to mention changes in tastes and values, launched new features and series. Most importantl y, of course, these magazines were (and are) businesses, heavily dependent upon advertising revenue for their continued existence. Not only do product manufacturers buy advertising space in periodicals whose readers are apt to be interested in the, but a dvertisements become part of the message of the magazine.5 (Walker 30) It is these advertised messages within the magazine that most glorified the happy housewife. I do not mean to suggest that LHJ solely presented the perfect hous ewife, nor do I mean to suggest that women solely aspired to become June Cl eaver or Donna Reed. Many women, in fact, still held jobs after the Second World War, a nd many women voiced their discontent through responses to the cont ent and material of LHJ The magazine portrayed a mainstream domesticity, but it also published sections on domestic problems and concerns. I do posit, however, that the advertisements in magazines such as LHJ created the socially accepte d view of the housewife, offering women the choice of either conforming to pristine images, or enduring the guilt of being 5 Walker continues astutely: Rather than setting out to espouse a philosophy, then, the womens magazines largely responded to an array of social, business, and even political institutions in determining what to publish. And even a cursory survey of the letters to the editor that the magazi nes printed demonstrates that readers were not uniformly brainwashed by what they read; they criticized the fiction, took issue with the advice offered by various experts, and questioned the perfectionist standards for home and family life that the magazines often projected (Walker 130).

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23 a bad housewife, a label we have already deemed as combining the multiple roles of mother, wife and hostess. Women werent just bad hous ekeepers, they were triply disappointing throughout their lives. These magazines were shaping the image of post-war domesticity. Combining her critical humor with the recogn ition of housewives as part of the mean, Scientific Explanation of a Monday (March 19 54) provides a great example of McGinley both lauding housewifery and exploiting its drudgery, offering yet anot her layered view of both the rewards and the frustration that come with bein g a housewife. This poem is one we might expect to be in LHJ based on its content. It presen ts a comically apt anal ysis of why Monday has become loathed by many housewives, emblematic of the day-to-day weekly solo routine that starts with the first household workday. The poet lists reasons Monday can t abide existence (18), as compared to other days of the week. Stanza by stanza the poet systematically logs each day of the weekend with fun and routine events, culminating in he r detailing of Monday as completely dull and meaningless. The speaker comments: Saturdays a splendid day With merriment ahead. The day to pick a winner Or to hie to country climes. Sundays the intended day For lying later in bed. For church and early dinner And the puzzle in the Times. (1-11) Both Saturday and Sunday are weekend days, days when housewives would often have another parent at hand. These days exude merriment a nd relaxationtime for families to reconnect. The verse form mimics each day, spilling down to the one word marker of that day. Weekend trips

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24 were common in the fifties, such as taking the family to drive-in movies, or up into country climes (4-5), for a brief outing. Sunday proves a relaxing day, time when even mothers perhaps could complete the Sunday puzzle in the / Time s (10-11), showing he r intellect by completing the hardest puzzle of the wee k. Remembering the context of LHJ and its audience, this poem reflects its audiences comp etence and interest in the Times puzzle, indirectly touting women as smart and educated within their housewife roles. The poem also heralds housewives as being enjoyable active mothers and orga nizers of household events. The poem follows with the comparative bana l Monday, the day theres nothing in the mail (20): No word from my kinfolk, no line from my dear. Not even a postal with a Wish you were here. (20-24) The speaker longs for communication from thos e she holds dearthose outside her nuclear familyand becomes annoyed that Monday only bri ngs what is, to her, unimportant mail. McGinley exalted relationships and used them as key centers for many of her poems, similar to other LHJ entries. This speaker clearly reveals her familial honor by missing communication with her family; it is not Lif es Meaning nor Remorse that produces the speakers lament, but her own intuition: Its my souls own warning I have never known fail: Therell be nothing but a Catalogue Nothing but a Bank Statement Nothing but a Tax Form Monday morning in the mail.6 (33-39) 6 Poem as appears in the March 1954 issue of LHJ

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25 Monday is seemingly not preferable because there is nothing in the mail (20). Yet, again, the true annoyance comes with what is absent from th e mail as well as what is in the mail. Family relations take precedence while tax forms and bank statements only symbolize the monotony of what the week will hold. The housewife, here, ha s been forgotten. She is heralded as fueling those relationships (children/husband) that she most misses, but she herself is unexcited about the weeks routine. McGinley writes of the speakers frustrati on with Monday in a very comic tone, a tone which makes light the [a]nger, pain, frustrat ion, and weariness with in the housewife role, sloughed off to counterattack with a just kidding (Fritzer a nd Bland 3). Using light verse demands that subject matter be familiar, that poems contain wit or humor, that language be immediately clear (Wagner 27) th us McGinley uses a common cons tructions of the days of the week and common conventions like getting the mail to illustrate a more powerful poetic position within the cultural and historical binary. The speaker in this poem may be delegated to the household, but she is very much aware of those th ings out of her domestic sphere, in charge of official paperwork. The light touc h of McGinleys work doesnt weigh further on the routine of the house, but lightens the load of the housewif e reading this poem. Her nuanced verse lines subtly emphasize the important and skilled roles of wives and mothers. With such a dexterous hand, McGinley is able to identify with housewiv es and recognize their toil while transforming routine into comedy. Unlike Sylvia Plath, who was accepted by LHJ but continually rejected by the NY (she was eventually accepted in the NY but it took quite some time), McGinley used both LHJ and the NY for more publication locales. She wrote comedic light verse for the NY but used the magazine as an area for more literary poems as well. A magazine that was also shaping post-war

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26 domesticity, the NY was symbolically the intellectual opposite of LHJ It was not considered domestic, nor was it traditionally ma rketed as a womens magazine like LHJ The fifties NY symbolized the scholarly, the witty intellectual, the wealthy and the cosmopolitan, creating a new space for domesticity. 1950s New York City was, indeed, the prime location for a cosmopolite, the center of a new superpower. Since post-war America boasted the acclaim of international superpower, NY C envisioned itself as the ur ban center of the world. Li ke the city itself, the NY represented the mobile flux of ideas, ideals, and identities across national borders contained within an urban setting. Distinctly urban 1950s cosmopolites (and specifically poets working within this cosmopolitan space) were governed by cu ltural icons that were not just national, but transnational as Jahan Ramanzani claims in his essay A Transnational Poetics. Thus domesticity in the NY took shape different from images of housewifery in LHJ McGinley would bridge aspects of both. The NY was geared towards the upper/upper-middle white and educated class of society who could achieve and afford the glitz adver tised in the magazine. Yet domestic ads still permeated the NY s cosmopolitanism. Despite occasional misogynistic reader claims, the NY too, recognized women as the primary consumer s of the decade and in corporated ads with women in domestic scenes as a focal point. In fact, in Defining New Yorker Humor Judith Yaross Lee posits women as the NY s decisive primary audience from its beginning in 1925. Referring to the first full-page ads of the new created magazine, Lee comments, [T]hese ads show that media buyers and the New Yorker s advertising staff agreed on defining the New Yorker as a magazine for women. Fu ll-page ads for cars, tires a nd other items addressed men directly, but ads target ing women outnumbered them. (47) Yet women do often penetrate ads traditionally directed towards men, with domesticity in the NY emerging as distinctly different

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27 from traditional interp retations. Women sometimes defied th e typical suburban housewife image. Whereas LHJ ads focused primarily on family and children within the home, the NY ads repositioned these subjects as people and families on the move. Fifties ads from the NY constantly portray vacations spots, automobile airplanes, women preparing to go out. Women portrayed inside the home are of ten still embody the sexy housewife, but one less glamorous than Scotts queen. Few ads of household products can be found in the NY virtually none center page. I do not mean to say that LHJ and the NY were complete opposites, that LHJ perpetuated the containment of women, and the NY did not. The NY however, offers a glimpse of a different side of domesticity that is not included in the traditional generic definition. Fifties New Yorker domesticity, rather, was one of mobility and weal th incorporating housewives who also had night lives, mothers who went on trips with friends, educated women who worked and published. Cosmopolitan, New Yorker women were depicted routinely taking their families and domestic lives with them outside of the house and into the city. Recovering McGinley as a complicated and complicating figure of post-war domesticity positions her as part of both LHJ and the NY McGinley was, again, both a popular housewife ( LHJ ) and an intellectual poet (the NY ), a best-selling author and a Pulitzer Prize winner. In LHJ McGinley published poems such as Calendar fo r Parents and Landscape of Love, and prose pieces such as The Honor of Being a Woma n, where McGinley expands the traditional interpretations of the fifties housewife as pristi ne perfection to include the daily drudgery of housewifery as honorable, empowering and worthy of formal poetic attention. In The New Yorker, McGinley published routinely alongside ca nonized writers such as John Cheever and Adrienne Rich. She wrote more poetry for the NY and was perhaps more comfortable there, especially since the NY provided a greater market for humor writing. Indeed, some of her wittiest

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28 poetry, On the Prevalence of Lite rary Rivals, and her most famous poem, The Doll House, appeared in the NY as McGinley continued to write on domestic issues at the peak of her career. But she was still a domestic writing in the NY too, publishing poems directly to housewives like A Word to Hostesses. Juxtaposing McGinleys work in LHJ / NY reflects the magazines respective domesticities and reveals her as a fi gure who was complicating post-war domesticity, voicing a compromise in a time of social polarization. In both magazines, she used her light verse to allow women the option of personal occupations as well as the respectful occupation of housewife. She managed to carve a space for po ems and prose that both embrace domesticity and laugh at its constructions. She wrote the mean, a compromise that most women enacted in everyday life, voicing their everyday struggles while providing not an either/or choice but a merged possibility: to be both woman and femi nist, mother and professional, domestic and cosmopolitan. McGinley taught women to simultaneously embrace their roles as women and push at perceived boundaries. McGinley found her niche in the NY She loved the city and she was writing to readers who felt the same. Thus many of her poems found here distin ctly locate her work in the cosmopolitan urban setting of NY domesticity both physically a nd intellectually. New York City often becomes central to the theme or content of her work, stylistically recurring most often in real time epigraphs. Song of High Cuisine wa s Written upon reading in the New York Times that Bloomingdales grocer y department now offers stu ffed larks from the region of Carcassonne as well as one thrush from the French Alps. The speaker mocks the elaborate offering of Bloomingdales inventory. The cosmopolitan choice of tongues of foreign nightingales (23) for dinner is just as over-the-top as the Que en for a Day television show. While seemingly intended for the sophisticated read er, this poem is also quite domestic as it

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29 ponders dinner options. A Threnody displays the epigraph McGinley stipulates is from a NY ad (though this poem was not published in the NY itself)The new Rolls-Royce is designed to be owner driven. No chauffeur required. The poem s speaker then bids Grandeur, farewell (1), as she also says goodbye to the old-world ways now replaced by abundant appliances. Similarly heralding the urban center of New York, Ode to an In stitution presents T he Museum of the City of New York (15) complete with som ebodys dance dress circa, (42) and a diorama (25) of Central Park. And unveiling the true NY domesticity, she writes in Mrs. Sweeney Among the Allegories that this poem is multi-level verses composed in a New Haven Railroad car immediately after having spent an af ternoon with the Collected Poems of T.S. Eliot and an evening at The Confiden tial Clerk. So, McGinleys epigraphs unveil her poems from the start as simultaneously funny, co smopolitan, and current. Beyond the physical and obvious city-centered poetry, McGinleys work also engaged with the intellectual expectations of scholarly cosmopolites. Many of her NY poems playfully attack the values and cultural pr actices of the upper educated class. She seems to get particular pleasure in speaking to a class she considers he r own. McGinley assuredly viewed herself as a professional poet and somewhat of a literary cr itic. Several of her poems parody academic values, but perhaps none so much as On the Pr evalence of Literary Writers where she laughs off the fluidity and indecisiveness of critical a ttention and lingo while also accentuating her oldfashioned taste: Its hard Keeping up with the avant-garde. There was the time that Donne Had a place in the sun. His lettres were belles of pure gold And they tolled and they tolled and they tolled, Until critics in suitable haunts Took up Kafka (Franz).

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30 Then everyone wanted to herald The genius of Scott Fitzgerald. And after, among Prominent Names, It was utterly Henry James. (1-12) The poem reveals McGinley to be not as light or limited as typically perceived. Providing the literary aficionado with a bit of a snicker at he rself, McGinley adjusts her content to fit the greater boundaries of the NY s constituency, simultaneously crafting an intensely witty poem using her hilarious light verse to meld form and content. The speaker cannot [keep] up with the avant-garde as the movement continues to push boundaries, so she launches back into a survey of literary critical attention. John Donne takes his temporary place in the sun, quite befitting as his speaker in The Sun Rising questions why the Sun must call on us? In his well-known poem, Donne positions the sun as a busybody, sim ilar to the princes whose honor and wealth is as alchemy or fake gold. McGinley masterfully plays on one of Donnes metaphysical love poems, punning the belles lettres the critics repetitivel y tolled so much a bout. The critics then turned to Kafka (Franz) the poet stylistically unique for his use of a German sentence structure using the moments before the sentence ending to bring forth (revelations). Most vaguely remember his first name (Franz). Every critic th en turns to fiction and begins to herald the Jazz Age Fitzgerald, and by the end of the stan za they are reduced to studying and creating Prominent Names led by the novelist James. Yet this poem, while poking fun at critics a nd their fixations, does have a self-reflexive undertone for McGinley and her ow n isolated status as well as an insightful questioning of criticism in general. The speak er acknowledges the change when critics forgather, tentatively crediting these changes to chance, and predicts th e next author in the spotlight will be Willa Cather. But the final stanza ends with an odd tone: And Im happy the great ones are thriving, But what puzzles my head

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31 Is the thought that they needed reviving. I had never been told th ey were dead. (25-28) After satirically cataloguing great authors in the beginning of the poem, this ending offers a resolution, but a resolution portray ed somewhat askance. McGinleys speaker was never told the writers were dead, punning on the idea that writ ers are never famous until they die while also pondering the notion that literary wo rks only become focal points wh en critics (purposefully or not) begin to talk about them as masterpieces; art is not art until it is called art. McGinley very much viewed herself a professional poet, but sh e seemed to know she was most popular with her readers. This poem, then, does more than satirize academic perceptions. It begins to question if the great ones who are thriving have only acquire d their status because they have somehow been found. McGinley seems to subtly push the idea that the common everyday writers, the popular writers, may have something to offer that has just not yet been revived or yet discovered, an ironically fifties avant-garde idea. One cannot help but think of the second-wave feminist movement that sparked the recovery of many female writers and their works. Ironically, McGinleys old-fashioned taste and her sources of influence from canonized authors are what help keep her out of the canon herself. Eliding Expectations: A Landscape of Love Com parative to poems like Scientific Expl anation of a Monday, Landscape of Love (Feb. 1959) reveals McGinleys more serious and high intellectual stylewhat might be considered her more poetical style permeating the popular magazine stereotype and offers the housewife confidence in her own role as wife. Using the guiding metaphor of landscape and colonized territory, she presents love as a pe rsonal struggle, best known only to hardworking colonists; colonists who have started a new land, founded thei r own grounds, and pioneered new

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32 territory, much like McGinley herself. She seem s to comment on the love and marriage articles physically surrounding her work in LHJ critiquing idealist advice columns while underscoring columns like Making Marriage Work that portray ed love and marriage as an ongoing process. Such an earnest poem requires a closer look. The speaker of the poem cautions readers in the first section to not believe them, Do not believe what strangers (McGinley, Landscape 1), have to say when they return from a snug, sunny, April-sheltering day / (Along the coast an d guarded from great dangers) (3-4). The speaker begins her warning that strangers to lo ve have nothing substantial to say, as they have been guarded from the realities not seen on an April day. The speaker labels people (women) as ignorant if they think love is a lotus-island (6) or Capri (7) instead of a huge landscape, perilous and stern (8). Love at this point in the poem is not the marketed bliss of the Brillo Soap Pads, far from the instant and long-lasting domestic bliss portrayed in the ads. Rather love is More poplared than the nations to the north, More bird-beguiled, stream -haunted. But the ground Shakes underfoot. Incessant thunders sound, Winds shake the trees, and tides run back and forth And tempests winter there, and flood and frost In which too many a voyager is lost. (9-14) Quite distant from her previous comic verse, Landscape of Love conveys its message in a serious, mentoring tone. McGinley window is revealed in this poe m, as she seeks to teach her audience how to read the rest of the magazine. Th e formal yet varied iambic pentameter reflects McGinleys adamant concern that her co-readers be able to distinguish reality from the romantic images of advertisements and published articles. Love, marriage in particular, situates itself on shaking ground with incessant thunders, enduring times of both flood and frost (13)not quite an episode from Leave It To Beaver

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33 McGinleys second section exposes love as cultivated and personal. Beyond the elegant dresses and family of four livi ng in suburbia, the speaker descri bes love as the country (15) that the colonist (15) discovers, hill by hill: None knows this country save the colonist, His homestead planted. He alone has seen The hidden groves unconquerably green, The secret mountains steepling through the midst. Each is his own discovery. (15-19) Love, here, is available to anyone, but unique to each individual pioneer. The homestead must be planted for the hidden groves to be seen. The LHJ guiding articles prove useful perhaps, but no article or column can ta ilor each individual relationship. The ads most definitely cannot speak to each individual. The speaker says th at No chart / Has pointed him past chasm, bog, quicksand / Only the steadfast compass of the heart (19-20, 22). Such lines seem almost Wordsworthian in content and style. Yet the speaker ends with a cautioned commission for women to Turn a deaf ear, then, on the trav eler who, / Speaking a foreign tongue, has never stood / Upon loves hills or in a holy wood ( 23-25). Relationships in this poem are the domain of the people within them. Fo r reading housewives, the poem offers empowerment and agency. They alone know how to be a good housekeeper, wife and mother; they alone can see the hidden groves beyond the touristy advertisem ents. Close reading McGinleys poetry positions her as a poet writing both humor and metaphor, highlighting housewives themselves as able to discern the joy and frustration within their own active roles, claiming for housewives a new territory in which to create their own homesteads. Eliding Expectations: A Word to Hostess Nonetheless excerpting McGinleys cr afty intellectual satire from the NY is not to say she did not include poems in the magazine that can be viewed just as domestic, sometimes more so, than those she chose to publish in LHJ Just has her more seriously erudite poems permeated the

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34 traditional domestic LHJ much of her work in the NY was geared specifically geared towards the housewife. In A Word to Hostesses McGinley provides key instructions on how to be a good hostess and emphasizes the skills it takes to succeed at this job. The expe rienced speaker relays how Celebrities are lonely when / They c ongregate with lesser men (1-2) because when Wrenched from their coteries, they lack / Mirr ors to send their image back (7-8). Thus, there are parameters to throwing a good dinner party; me n must have equally interesting guests to reflect their own high character or they will pout and become bored. Therefore, careful selection of guests proves a primary rule in succeeding as hos tess. For seat men next [to] a Name, and lo! / How they most instantly will glow (13-14). But this masterminded guest list and preplanned table seating that will produce a succ essful party are not solely inte nded on behalf of the satisfied guests, but are more necessary to expose the hostess as a skilled and trained success. For a hostess who is not trained by the poem will have gue sts who do not sparkle (6) or luster (9) or glow (14), whereas one who pays attention to instructions even a little can make him glitter (28). Sparkles are the recognizable reward of the flawless and pristine housewife.

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35 CHAPTER 4 WRITING THE MEAN: THE DOLL HOUSE AND T HE HONOR OF BEING A WOMAN Culminating McGinleys complex portrayal of the housewife, The Doll House published in The New Yorker in 1954 was one of McGinleys best-known poems giving further insight into relationship[s] of mutability (Wagner 24). Paralleling the mutable status of women in the fifties, McGinley creates a more conversationa l tone that uses a childs plaything as a microcosm to an adults dream. The poem begins with a mother bringing an old doll house down from the attic, after sorting through forgotten family relicsa badminton set, skis too good / to give away, the hamsters cages (McGin ley, Doll House 3, 6). The doll house made it through the years with her children, and now sh e brings it down once more / To a bedroom, empty now, on the second floor (8). Without the interruptions and atten tion of children, the mother begins to relive her own life. She self-reflexively sees not only the mutable relationship with her children, but her own ch anging relationship to life as sh e restores the doll house to its original prestige: There was nothing much That couldnt be used agai n with a bit of repair. It was all there, Perfect and little and inviolate. So, with the delicate touch A jeweler learns, she mended the rocking chair, Meticulously laundered The gossamer parlor curtains, dusted the grate, Glued the glazed turkey to the flowered plate, And polished the Lilliput writing desk. (10-19). Through a constructed domestic space, the mother re stores perfect detail to the doll house. With the delicate touch of an artful master with her creation, the mother re peats those actions that belabored her life before, this time produci ng a flawless physical im age of perfect and inviolate (13) domesticity. The doll house is controllable, mana geable, and vulnerable beneath the hands of the artist.

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36 The mothers first interaction with the doll house is intentiona l, with explicit attention to material appearanceshe mends, she launders, sh e dusts, she glues, she polishes. All actions revolve around routine housewife chores. Nothing goes by th e wayside, rather every object seems almost beyond perfect. The glazed turkey ( 18) adorns the flowered plate (19), while the grate needs dust[ing] (17) almost as if it were truly in use. Mc Ginleys excellent, though more subtle, rhyme scheme links the grat e and the flowered plate, emphasizing their relationship within the house. Associating two objects seemingly unrelated, a dirty grate compared to an ornate plate, allows the struct ure of the poem to underscore the mothers creation of detailed perfection. One object is just as impor tant as the other in an unblemished house, for anything out of order violates the ideal image. The house is only truly inviolate (13) once the mother has performed her perfec ted duties as housekeeper. Yet, the mother is not contained inside the house held prisoner at her Lilliput writing desk; she is indeed, the creator of her own ambition. Yet she squander[s] (20) a day and a ha lf, [b]inding the carpe ts round with a ribbon border (22) until the house is decorous and in order (26). Nothing comes before the mothers creation of complete order; real life is sacrificed to playing hous e. Only after she places the kettle upon the stove (24), has the mirrors face / Scoured (24-25), and the formal sofa set in its place (25), can she rejoice w ith grave delight (23) that It was a good house (25). This last line literally starts a new stan za, just as it starts a new moment in the mothers life. No detail is left unattended and the house, pe rhaps like the mother as well, is not good until everything is permanently and exactly in place: Here was her private estate, a peculiar treasure, Cut to her fancys measure. Now there was none to trespass, no one to mock The extravagance of her sewing or her spending

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37 (The tablecloth stitched out of lace, the grandfathers clock, Stately upon the landing, With its hands eternally poi nting to ten past five). Now all would thrive (54-61). The doll house has become a microcosm of comp lete and interference-free domestic control. Though in physical existence, the doll house is on ly a phantasmal construction of the mothers desire. She can have a lace tablecl oth and a grandfather clock, ite ms not always affordable in concrete existence; items laughed at by the prude nt mom, scorned by the child-focus mother, and longed for by the speaker. She is contained not in the house, but outside of it. For only [t]hrough the panes (67) was she able to peer at her world re duced to the size of a dream (68). Thus, like her dream, she is reduced to only touching her idealized domesticity. And caught into this web of quietness Where there was neither After or Before, She reached her hand to str oke the unwithering grasses Beside the small and inco rruptible door (83-86). The house, an archetypal symbol of domesticity, ha s achieved immortality, and the speaker is the sole mistress (67). The doll house stands as a symbol of permanence in a world of shifting values and loves (24), where the mother/housew ife has become a deity. How tragic, then to stroke the unwithering grasses and know that the entire glorified id entity is a charade. McGinley ends with the image of an incorrup tible door in order to reemphasize the domestic construction as fake. The walls, the doors, the windows are all physically tangible yet artificial. McGinley offers a journey into make-believe through The Doll House, but she constantly reminds the reader, and even the speaker of th e poem, that perfection is only achieved through simulation.

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38 The Honor of Being a Woman is a unique prose work to examine McGinley as writing the mean, lending more room to flesh out ideas only implied in short lines of poetry. In this LHJ essay published in 1959,7 (also published in a coll ected volume of essays, The Province of the Heart 1959) McGinley weighs in on the public di scussion of women. Taking in the advertised images of women, she presents a public opinion of her own. She ope ns the essay with a real life anecdote, enticing her readers th rough the classic humor of husband-and-wife banter in which her husband tried to pay her a compliment. Sh e writes about the di alogue with her husband: You know, dear, he remarked fondly, youre a wonderful girl. You think like a man. I can remember refuting him passionately. But I dont! I dont. What a horrid thing to say! (McGinley 13) This first comedic dialogue disarms the read er with humorous domesticity and predicates McGinleys first premise that women are a different race than men, a race that does not want to think like men or feel like men or act like menonly like women a nd human beings (13). She sees women as suddenly enfranchised, hastily given the keys of all c ities and all liberties like one of the new states created after a war (13). McGinley views critics like Friedan and her followers as similar to an unrestricted kid in a candy store. In the midst of such criticism, McGinley cites women as bemoaned and praise d in public discussion, deafened by the noise of controversy (14). Again the binary appear s. McGinleys women refer mainly to those housewives bemoaned by feminists and praised by the rest of the country. Observing this conundrum around her, confronted with the deaf ening ads and the noisy critics herself, McGinley recognized women caught in the either/or side of the publicly vocalized controversy. 7 Although published in LHJ the version of this essay used here will be cited from McGinleys later published book of essays, The Province of the Heart in order to use a more condensed text with accurate page numbers.

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39 Agreeing with Friedan, McGinley felt women sh ould be educated about their lot in life. The Honor of Being a Woman, then, is an essay intended primarily to en courage girls to be realistic about their chances (18) in the world at large. Unlike Frie dan, she offers women a middle-of-the-road approach to this great disc ussion that is going on around them. McGinley valued femininity; she valued the unique powerfu l position and the unrivaled ability to cultivate relationships of a mother and a wife, and conser vatively defended womens right to enjoy those traditional roles. For her, womens exceptional ability to foster familial and intimate relationships is the quality that segregates women into a different race, gives them their individuality and gives them their power. Because women had chosen to go to the marketplace she honored them as alarmingly adaptable (18), but the price of success often became a grinding, gouging, knock-about struggle in which the e ssential feminine quality is lost (this even in light of McGinleys own marketed career). And in the end it is only the truly gifted or the very dedicated who win through to the top (18). Re alistically, these comments are quite logical. McGinley does not debunk women who have followed their careers, she herself is one, but she poses the possibility that a secr etarial office job may be just as boring as being a housewife. Similarly routine and contained, s ecretarial jobs (one of the mo st popular and accepted jobs for women) relocated housewifery dutie s outside the house. As The Scientific Explanation of a Monday highlights, housewiv es were functioning secretaries for their own households. Yet while she lays claim to the honor of bei ng a woman at home, McGinley seems alarmed at the growing numbers of young marriages a nd divorces across the c ountry. Though her issue with divorce generates from her Catholic backgr ound, she faults society for pushing women into a vocation for which almost nothing has prepar ed them before the ink [is] scarcely dry on their [high school] diplomas (18). Here is one fault in education; it does not prepare women for

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40 the work and skill involved in being a housewif e. Remembering A Word to Hostesses, McGinleys poetry comically attemp ts to fill those gaps. But ther e is also a fault in perception. Young women view the ads, and see ideal marriages and love told from tourists as McGinley elucidates in Landscape of Love, just like women who would eventually read The Feminine Mystique and see the unending opportunity to follow their careers. Neither option was fully plausible. McGinley found the possibility of becoming both a housewife and a woman pursuing her career, but more so, she dictated the honor of being a woman. As portrayed in advertisements, marriage looked easy, wifehood looke d instinctual, and love seemed everlasting. McGinley espouses, They [women] should have been told long ago that life is seldom fair, and that womans chief honor is to know that and be able to surmount it (19). This social idea is perhaps similar to know ing the boundaries of poeti c form and being able to manipulate it. McGinley found the pride in be ing a woman, the respect in being a wife, and the gift of being a mother. Unlike the ads, sh e is not claiming any of the above roles of housewives to be perfect and pristine, but she ad vocates the esteem found in enacting those roles well. Returning to the idea of McGinley as housewife poet, perhaps writing verse within contained forms is analogous to the performan ce of housewives. Figuring out the puzzle of end rhymes might be comparable to deducing the pe rfect seating arrangements for a dinner party. Business women held no more credit and skill than a housewife, for business holds no rougher ordeals than does a housekeeping existence (19) Housewifery was hard work. It could be dreary at times, McGinley does not dodge the reality of routine and drudgery. But more so, housewifery was physical, mental, emo tional, and professional work. To reemphasize housewives work and skill, sh e goes back to her humor and includes a laughable story of a saint entering a monastic life who had once been married with a child. This

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41 saint comments, Nothing, she exclaimed candi dly, in the rigors of a convent community can equal, for difficulty, the day-by-day exasperations of household living (20). The story is comic, but McGinley, again, makes her point very seriousl y within the layers of humor. Like Friedan, McGinley sees the problem that has no name as an issue characterizing housewives in the fifties, but rather than find a career to complete their identity, McGinley suggests they adjust perception and education. In an effort to combat both the ads and second-wave feminism, Mc Ginley published The Honor of Being a Woman with a sense of urge ncy. She passionately felt the need for upcoming women to understand what they were marrying into. She desired for women to both know their possibilities in life and also r ecognize their limitations. McGinley exalted the decision to be a housewife not as entering into a lifetime of unhappiness, but as gaining the respect and honor of having a domestic occupation. She ends her e ssay with an urgent plea to women around the nation: Our greatest victories have always been moral ones. Without relinquishing our new learning or our immediate opportunities, we must return to a more native sphere. Let us teach our daughters not self-rea lization at any cost but the true glory of being a woman sacrifice, containment, pride, and pleasure in our natural accomplishments. Let us win back honor. The honors will take care of themselves. (22) For McGinley, women needed to embrace their sk ills as housewives without letting go of the progress women had made. Such an action was imperative to educate daughters who would soon question whether to embrace domestic ideals or pursue their own career. McGinley broke through the ads, and broke thr ough the criticism to allow women to be both housewives and occupational women, hoping thes e women, regardless of their choice would recognize and acknowledge their honorable position in life.

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42 CHAPTER 5 CONCLUSION In the scheme of McGinleys poetry, not hing seem s more prevalent than her undying tribute to housewives and their feminine capabil ities as at least theoretically equivalent to professional work. Excerpting one of McGinleys essays, provides an example of what seems at first to be a random, laughable portrayal of women, but further illu strates womens common sense and self-reliance. For woman, as McGinley identifies her, is also a realist; she is perceptive to the worlds around he r and to the relationships with in them (Wagner 23). McGinley writes about women: I like them for their all-around, all-weather dependability. I li ke them because they are generally so steady, realistic, and careful about tidying up after a hot shower. I admire them for their prudence, thrift, gallantry, co mmon sense, and knobless knees, and because they are neither so vain nor so given to em otion as their opposite numbers. I like the way they answer letters promptly, put shoe trees in their shoes at night, and are so durable physically. Their natures may not be so fine or their hearts so readily touched as mans, but they are not so easily imposed on either. (23) McGinley viewed women as intensely practical and virtuous; they were not advertisement models and they, quite honestly, could not have all become professional working women, nor did they all want to. McGinley positi ons Friedan as actually similar to the ads that Friedan so vocally opposed. Forcing women to feel guilty about not bei ng a career-striv er was very definitely linked to forcing women to feel ashamed of their in abilities as domestic models. Thus, McGinley boasted of being a housewife poe t as the encompassing figure of a dual role for women in the fifties, breaking down the categorized bi nary. Women, realists could read both LHJ and the NY they could have a career or stay at home. McGinley herself could publish in a popular or academic magazine, she could be a housewife or win a Pulitzer. The categories were never completely separate. One side of the give n binaries always permeated the other.

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43 Though McGinley was, indeed, a co nservative critic and writer, and she very much played toward a white middle and upper class audience, she forces us to reconsider the categories of domesticity. Using light verse as a means to captivate a wide popular and intellectual audience, she offered women humor instead of boredom or dissatisfaction. Forgotten by the academy, McGinley deserves to reside beside her fellow women advocates like Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich. She was, too, writing for the everyday woman, writing to push out ideas of containment from society. She just offered comprise in stead of complete rejection. She commented, Compromise, if not the spice of life, is its soli dity. It is what makes na tions great and marriages happy (McGinley, Suburbia 114). McGinley promoted moderation and finding contentment and discursive in the same lifes tyle. Adhering to the conventions of both light verse and fifties decorum, McGinley deconstructed binaries that have come to label 1950s housewives.

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44 WORKS CITED Brunner, Edward. Cold War Poetry. Urbana: University of Illinois P, 2001. Bryant, Marsha. Plath, Dom esticity and the Art of Advertising. College Literature. 29.3(2002): 17-35. Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1963. Fritzer, Penelope, and Bartholomew Bland. Merry Wives and Others: a History of Domestic Humor Writing. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland and Company, Inc., 2002. Hanley, Shawn "Queen for a Day." History web pages. 16 Dec 1996. 24 Oct 2007 Hollander, John, ed. American Wits: An Ant hology of Light Verse New York: Library of America, 2003. Kaledin, Eugenia. Daily Life in The United States, 1940-1959 Shifting Worlds. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Langer, Cassandra L. A Feminist Critique: How feminism has changed American society, culture, and how we live from the 1940s to the present. New York: IconEditions, 1996. Matthews, Glenda. Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America Oxford: Oxford UP, 1987. McCarthy, J.D., ed. Ogden Nash, Dorothy Parker, and Phyllis McGinley New York: Random House, 2003. McGinley, Phyllis. Calendar for Parents. Ladies Home Journal Feb. 1952: 156. Foreword W.H. Auden. Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades with Seventy New Poems New York: Viking Press, 1961. "The Honor of Being a Woman." The Province of the Heart New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1959. "Landscape of Love." Ladies Home Journal Feb 1959: 150. "Scientific Explanation of a Monday." Ladies Home Journal Mar. 1954: 96. Sixpence in Her Shoe New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1965. Suburbia, Of Thee I Sing. The Province of the Heart New York: Dell Publishing Company, Inc., 1959.

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45 Moskowitz, Eva. It is Good to Blow Your Top: Womens Magazines and a Discourse of Discontent, 1945-1965. Journal of Womens History 8.3 (1996): 66-99. Plath, Sylvia. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath New York: Anchor, 2000. Ramazani, Jahan. "A Transnational Poetics." American Literary History 18.2(2006): 332-359. Wagner, Linda Welshimer. Phyllis McGinley Chicago: Twayne Pub, 1970. Walker, Nancy A. The Ladies Home Journal How America Lives an d the Limits of Cultural Diversity. Media Hist ory. 4.2 (2000): 129-138. Young, William H. and Nancy K. Young. The 1950s. American Popular Culture Though History. Ed. Ray B. Browne. West port, CT: Greenwood Press, 2004.

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46 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Megan Anne Leroy was born in Dublin, Georgi a. She com pleted her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in history at th e University of Georgia in Summer 2005. After completing her thesis at the University of Florida, she will pursue a doctoral degree focused on 20th century American poetry and culture. Her areas of interest continue to include modern and womens poetry, gender studies, and intersections between lite rature and visual culture.