I love the 1940s

November 9, 2014

It’s fun to play the game “What other era would you have liked to live in, do you think?” M. and I play it from time to time and his answer is always the 1950s, when he was a kid and life was easy.

I’m fascinated by another era. The Forties.

1940s+housewife+serves+lunchThere’s something about the 1940s that speaks to me.  Yes, yes, I know, the decade was marked by World War II and hardships faced by many people around the world.  But this is a game, after all, and the seemingly wholesome middle class life intrigues me. Even as people went through the war it looked like they really believed they were all in this together.  I wasn’t there, of course, but everything I’ve read indicates that there was real solidarity among people.


Family values weren’t a political statement. They were a way of life.

Was that a myth? Maybe. It could very well be a fantasy version of life in the 1940s, I don’t know.

But I do know that when the 21st century gets to be too much for me, I take refuge in the fantasy 40s.


I’m an ardent feminist and made the most of the opportunities afforded me by the feminist movement. No “I don’t call myself a feminist” apologies for me. I’ve always been out and proud.

But if I’m being honest, I have to admit that life seemed easier before that, at least from a societal perspective.  Roles were clearly defined and well-known and there seemed to be a certain security in that knowledge of gender roles.

I’m not going to kid you: coming of age in my corporate career just as the feminist movement took popular root was like bushwhacking through a jungle. Sometimes exhilirating, but it was also exhausting at times.

Sometimes I felt I had too many choices and I longed to rest in the security of a defined role.  I’m sure that surprises some of you who know me, but it is a fact.  I wouldn’t trade gender progress for the way things were, I’m just acknowledging that the path wasn’t completely smooth.

There are other things about the 1940s that I love:

1940s+day+dress+-+war+yearsCan we talk fashion? I love these crisp shirtwaist styles and pumps.

And the music:  click HERE to listen to this:

Swing epitomized the decade.

Life+at+Olympic+Trailer+Court,+1940s+(11)Of course, modern conveniences weren’t anywhere near as convenient as they are today. That doesn’t look like fun.

And disease was a bigger problem, at least some diseases. Life spans were shorter.

But to be honest? People seemed happier.

article-0-19432129000005DC-302_470x634I look at these innocent teens and contrast them with those who recently cowered in a cafeteria while a fellow teenage student gunned students down.  An event like that would be practically unheard of in the 1940s. It was a more innocent time. A more wholesome time.

Yes, it was also racist and not so much fun for minorities. I get that.  I’m speaking only for myself and my fantasies.

There’s no question that our society was less materialistic. Television had not taken root, so we weren’t exposed to aspirations that were beyond our capability to legally obtain.

Movies were escapist: sappy and wholesome.

The other day I saw a TV drama in which a character was clearly performing oral sex on another.  And I’ve seen some horrific violence on shows. Is this really necessary on TV that young kids can access? What will be next?

No, I’m not a prude. But as each year passes our society goes further off the rails and I have to believe it’s related to media.

But back to the 1940s.

It wasn’t a perfect era, but it’s one that fascinates me. I never tired of reading about it.

How about you? Is there an era in which you think you might have liked to have lived?

19 comments on “I love the 1940s
  1. I love the forties too, mainly because of the entertainment – classic film at its best. I love combing thru old photos and seeing the appliances, cars and oh the fashions! Those ladies hairdos are hysterical. Yup. I would have chosen the 40’s too, Carol!

  2. I love old movies of the 30’s and 40’s for the architecture of the houses they lived in–big moldings, arched doorways–and everyone had a “Hazel”–I loved Hazel. There was a refinement, a “Cary grant-ish” appeal to the end of the 30’sand beginning of the 40’s, a gentlemanliness and a womanliness. There were certainly draw backs, (like the washing machine in your photo–ugh) but the trade offs seemed to dull in comparison to the elegance of the eras.Maybe I watched too many Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House–or the Philadelphia Story–movies I was raised with in the 50’s and 60’s. Hindsight….I suppose.

  3. Haralee says:

    The 40’s dresses are my favorite too. It is a style that looks good on me and some of the fabrics pre-war were gorgeous. That said even in game fantasy mode the reality of life as a woman creeps in and I am glad I live in this age.

  4. I’m a kid of the 40s too, maybe even the late 30s. However! I don’t fantasize that people were any happier then. We just weren’t privy to a 24/7 retelling of individual and collective miseries. Yes, we have a seemingly unstoppable (hello NRA) wave of school shootings. But they had a very stoppable wave (hello Dr Salk) of polio epidemics.

  5. Joan Stommen says:

    My mom dressed like this……loved the dresses from the 40’s! She worked in a ladies dress shop until she took off to San Antonio to marry my Dad before he shipped out. And along came me! Best of all looking back were the slow pace, innocence and simple pleasures of those years! Great piece, Carol…..thanks for a walk down memory lane.

  6. I love playing this game so much that I fantasize that there would be some sort of neighborhood where every homeowner who moves in signs an agreement (you know how some neighborhoods make you sign an agreement that you will decorate your front yard to the hilt for X-mas? lol) that they will re-create a certain time period in history and everyone will live that way. It’s usually 40’s or 50’s. Hey – – this sounds like a good idea for a reality show. I would apply to be a contestant. I think the world has become a very dangerous and disturbing place in which to live. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

  7. Jackie says:

    I’d go back way, way further than that. I’d love to have been alive to witness The American Revolution. I hope I wouldn’t have been a Loyalist, though.

  8. I like the 40’s but I also love the 1920’s

  9. I was such a child of the ’60’s, I don’t think I could go back to any other time. Fun going down memory lane with you, though!

  10. Ruth Curran says:

    I love the idea of the 20’s but I would not want to be a woman in the 20’s…. I am thinking the 60’s when their was promise of equality and it felt like that was something worth fighting for because the belief was that we would certainly make progress – gender, race, class equality someday….. Hope is a good thing.

  11. Roz Warren says:

    As a radical feminist, I am SO grateful NOT to have lived in the 40s. Those restrictive gender roles just wouldn’t have worked for me. I’m so happy I was born in 1954!

  12. Jennifer says:

    I LOVE the 40’s and you’ve nailed down all the reasons why!! Brilliant Carol! I’m addicted to TCM black and whites fromt hat era. Life seemed so simpler. Thanks for sharing this cool style inspiration with us on #stylefocus. It’s one of the cooler ones 🙂

    • Allen says:

      I also wish I could’ve lived in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It was definitely more civilized and simpler. The people that don’t agree are usually younger people that were not around back then. Yes, there were much less school shootings, crime, craziness, and most people still left their doors unlocked. Women were much sweeter and feminine, and men were more gentlemen. Sure, there were your few bad apples, the world has never been completely free of them. But it was much much much better than today. And people rarely said the f word. And the films and music of the 30s-50s. I love it. The swing music, the bands, the sweet old fashioned violin sounds, the muted trumpets. Tommy Dorsey, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern. The golden age of Hollywood. Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Esther Williams, Red Skelton, Cyd Charrise, Allen Jones, Jimmy Durante, Virginia Bruce, Jean Porter, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and many more. I know it was a much better age.

  13. Stephen Stocker says:

    I just bumped across this, and glad I did! I’ve always felt I belong more in the ’20s, ’30s and especially ’40s. I was blessed, from early childhood, to have heard the stories of many who lived through the period.

    It seems they *were* happier, even with (or maybe because of?) the problems. These weren’t people who idealized the era, I heard pretty much every horror story imaginable.

    Yet somehow, they seem to have cared more for each other, cherished each other more and were generally more satisfied with life. Maybe they had less materially, but their spiritual lives were so much richer. Thanks for a great article!

  14. Jennifer says:

    I do love this post Carol.Thanks for sharing with us on My Refined Style!

  15. I love the look of 40’s fashion and I agree they do seem happier. I think there is a lot to be said for a slower pace of life. When you left work, you left it…now, we are constantly connected and I don’t think that necessarily makes us happier. I am thrilled to have you join our first My Refined Style Linkup…I hope you will come back for many more!


  16. Jaimie Houck says:

    I love the 1920’s, 1930’s, and (1940’s (probably the best)

    I not too in love with the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.

    I love the 1980’s and 1990’s though, because I was born in the 80’s.

    I’ am okay in this time. I love the technology but I wish people were more kind and considerate and had more manners.

    People are rude, trashy, unkind, and mean.
    Not everyone is like this, but our culture encourages. I blame the rap culture.

  17. Kate Hudson says:

    I am sure we all wish we were a beautiful hlusewife inntne 1940’s. My Grandmother’s era. * try to raise my children in that way and we have a 1948 home which I have tried to capture the elegance of the decor. Wonderful article.

  18. Glenn says:

    I was born 40 years too late! Should have been the mid 20’s instead of ‘63! I’m not sure I could handle the heat in FL without AC though! I don’t know how they did it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.