In 1953, ‘Queen-Crazy’ American Women Looked to Queen Elizabeth II as a Source of Inspiration


As Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, American girls—anticipated to evolve to conventional roles of a housewife and homemaker—watched in awe.

A employee at a stamp-making manufacturing unit reveals a few of her work to the visiting Queen Elizabeth II in 1955. (John Chillingworth / Image Put up / Hulton Archive / Getty Pictures)

This story was initially revealed on The Dialog.

The Conversation

Within the spring of 1953, girls from throughout the US traveled to Britain—for a lot of, it was their first time overseas.

The impetus for the journey was Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, held in Westminster Abbey on a wet June 2 of that 12 months. Amongst these making the journey had been Peggy Webber, who traveled all the best way from Iowa, and Geneva Valentine from Washington, D.C. For each girls, whom I realized of whereas researching the monarchy and gender, the coronation offered an unprecedented alternative to be a part of a momentous event during which a girl was on the heart of the story.

In her personal approach, the queen quietly captured the imaginations of American girls from the very starting of her reign. As a historian of the British monarchy, I do know a part of the curiosity stemmed from People’ abiding affection for the royal family—one thing that transcended Elizabeth’s reign.

However for a lot of American girls, Elizabeth additionally represented one thing else. At a time when girls had been, in lots of instances, anticipated to evolve to conventional roles of a housewife and homemaker, Elizabeth was ascending the throne of a strong nation. Within the phrases of 1 psychologist interviewed for a 1953 Los Angeles Times article, for the primary time “the ladies of America have discovered a heroine who makes them really feel superior to males.”

American girls had been fixated on the truth that a lot fuss was being revamped a girl in any respect.

Lengthy-Standing Affection

Though People selected a distinct path with independence in 1776, the British royal household has all the time exerted a powerful pull on the American psyche. That pull is even perhaps higher as a result of it’s uncomplicated by politics. It’s not U.S. tax dollars at work, so People can have the benefit of the ceremonial and the romantic with out being burdened by questions of what it prices and means to have a monarchy.

There’s a particularly gendered side to America’s love affair with the royals, too. When girls traveled to London in 1953—or, as second finest, turned on their newly bought tv units to tune into the coronation coverage—they weren’t simply keen on what the queen was sporting or the dashing determine lower by Prince Philip.

They had been additionally fixated on the truth that a lot fuss was being revamped a girl in any respect, and a strong one at that. As U.S. ambassador to Italy Clare Boothe Luce explained at the time, this was “an task made to order for a girl.” Luce used this logic to persuade President Dwight Eisenhower to ship the journalist Fleur Cowles to the coronation as one in every of his official representatives.

Certainly, as Luce alluded to, there was one thing deliciously disruptive about Elizabeth’s reign. Towards a postwar backdrop, when many American girls had been being urged to return to the house and take pleasure within the effectivity of their kitchens, right here was a 25-year-old princess being elevated to a place of head of state, her each step reported and mentioned. This was anomalous, and in ways in which appeared to augur properly for others of her intercourse.

It’s not U.S. tax {dollars} at work, so People can have the benefit of the ceremonial and the romantic with out being burdened by questions of what it prices and means to have a monarchy.

Reporter John Kord Lagemann, writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1953, captured this sentiment in a chunk on “America’s Queen-Loopy Ladies.” Elizabeth, Lagemann famous, posed a problem to patriarchy. Working example was her marriage. Right here, he wrote, the “scenario is reversed” and the lady “instructions.”

Elizabeth didn’t have to “play in accordance with a person’s guidelines by performing demure and helpless.” Relatively, she might “be as imperious as she pleases.”

Lagemann’s observations present some clues to Elizabeth’s maintain on American girls. At the same time as the ladies’s liberation motion helped shift sure conversations, the queen continued to mannequin another path ahead—one during which girls might journey with out their youngsters, display their command of coverage, be on the heart of the {photograph}, take duty and even develop previous within the public eye.

Elizabeth II shall be mourned by many all over the world, together with the daughters and granddaughters of these “queen-crazy” People who traveled to London in 1953 for her coronation however have but to see a female head of state put in in their very own nation.

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