My Grandmother Lois and Me in 1961
My Grandmother Lois and Me in 1961

 

We know when we meet a well-balanced woman or man.  Such a person conveys to us a balancing influence; [her] personality conveys to us a sense of poise, self-control, understanding, tranquility.  [She] creates an atmosphere of confidence.  [Her] very presence denotes strength, and it gives you a “lift.”
~ Louis Bisch, M.D.

What is it about mid-20th century homemaking that calls out to us in the 21st century?  Why do so many women, myself included, aspire to live like our grandmothers, Donna Reed, or June Cleaver with a bit of the sophistication and glamour of Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and Grace Kelly thrown in for good measure?

Being a “perfect 1950’s homemaker” is about more than just keeping a clean house.  If you’re like me, being a 1950’s homemaker is about living by a set of values and ideals that are often cast aside in today’s modern world. What it all boils down to for me is a desire to embrace beautiful living–to eating good food, Only Wearing Beautiful Clothes™, exercising my body on a regular basis so that I can move through the world easily and effortlessly, creating a peaceful and inviting home, finding ways to make other people feel important and special to me, being self-sufficient and resilient, remembering to always carry myself with poise, charm and sophistication, being a responsible money manager and nourishing my creativity.  It is a lifestyle that early to mid-century magazines and advertisers promoted as gracious living.

As I look back, I can see that my longing for mid-century-style gracious living began just about the time I ventured into a rough and tumble world where power and prestige were valued more than cooperation and humility.  A world where the bottom line was more important than whether students got the services they needed and hard-working teachers were vilified.  A world where the internet was starting and the “hook up” mentality was taking form.  A world filled with cynicism and where the politicians passed laws and started wars that benefited their already wealthy friends.  I didn’t fit in with that world.  And I still don’t.  I have tried to fit into the modern world.  It leaves me feeling angry, empty, and depressed.  But I have to also be careful not to romanticize the past.  There was a lot of ugliness then, too.

As a modern retro woman, I am choosing to reconnect with those values that were taught so long ago.  I am like a woman who has crossed a very large desert and am terribly thirsty for the wisdom of our elders.  True glamour, true sophistication, true wisdom, and true values are timeless and cross-generational.

If this is your vision of “the good life” and if these feelings resonate with you, too, then welcome home!  This blog is about trying to be the proverbial “perfect 1950s glamorous housewife” by trying to live graciously in today’s modern world.  I’m putting those research skills I learned in graduate school to good use by examining manuals, how-to books, textbooks, cookbooks, and even those scratchy old educational films to learn what “they” don’t teach to us anymore and implementing what makes sense for me as I navigate this modern world.  The areas I explore include cooking, poise, charm, dress, beauty,  home and money management, decorating, creativity, entertaining, self-improvement, suburban/small town glamour, and the post-war can-do spirit of optimism and self-sufficiency. The lifelong educator in me finds joy in sharing what I’ve learned so that you can implement the teachings that are right for you, too. There’s no “one size fits all” nor is there one definition of “the perfect 1950s glamorous housewife.”

My youngest sister, Jill, summarizes what this blog is all about the best, I think…

“The reason I like the Modern Retro Woman blog is because it validates women like me (us) and shows that being a homemaker is about nurturing your family, but without losing one’s own graciousness and identity. No Real Housewives of Wherever here!

 

If you are looking for a snarky adrenaline-filled blog to get a daily rush, you have come to the wrong place.  That’s not my life.  But if you are looking for a joy-filled, calm, and serene existence that many of our grandmothers seem to exude, and want to be a part of a community of like-minded women, you have come to the right place.  You see, my vision of “the good life” is that by living by old-fashioned values we are able to live a fabulous “Technicolor” life!

Garret & Julie-Ann McFann, December 27, 1986
Garret & Julie-Ann McFann, December 27, 1986

Some Fast Facts about Dr. Julie-Ann:

  • The Mister and I are college sweethearts.  We started dating in October 1980 and had a Christmas wedding in 1986.
  • Unfortunately, we were unable to have children.
  • I think both of my grandmothers epitomize a forgotten group of mid-century homemakers–women who had careers outside of the home but always considered homemaking their priority.
  • My Ph.D. is in Educational Psychology which is the study of how people learn with my expertise being in college-level teaching and learning.
  • My outside-the-home job was as a university administrator at a medium-sized public university helping graduate students and new faculty learn how to be college professors. I retired in November 2021, after almost 30 years as an educator in higher education.
  • I collect vintage cookbooks (pre-1965)
  • I also have a Custom Clothing certificate
  • My collection of vintage sewing patterns and books is bigger than my cookbook collection
  • My favorite kind of music is Christmas sung by the mid-20th-century crooners
  • I bought my first vintage how-to-be-a-housekeeper book shortly after The Mister and I married and I realized I didn’t know anything about keeping a home!
  • I love trying to be the perfect 1950s housewife!
  • The Mister and I are currently living in what I am calling “The Farmhouse” in Northern California–built in the 1860s that was his childhood home–as we clean it out and make repairs so that it can be sold in a couple of years. When his family moved into it in the mid-20th-century, there were fields as far as the eye could see.  In the past 60ish years, the community has grown around it and it is now considered close to “downtown.”
  • I am grateful for the Modern Retro Woman community  for the encouragement given to me and each other to follow our retro-lifestyle bliss

 

 

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