1940s Research (Context for Dancing at Lughnasa + Streetcar Named Desire)

Some basic contextual information about the 1940s to go with A Streetcar Named Desire and Dancing at Lughnasa.

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Preview of 1940s Research (Context for Dancing at Lughnasa + Streetcar Named Desire)

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FACTS about this decade.
· Population 132,122,000
· Unemployed in 1940 - 8,120,000
· National Debt $43 Billion
· Average Salary $1,299. Teacher's salary $1,441
· Minimum Wage $.43 per hour
· 55% of U.S. homes have indoor plumbing
· Antarctica is discovered to be a continent
· Life expectancy 68.2 female, 60.8 male
· Auto deaths 34,500
· Supreme Court decides blacks do have a right to vote
· World War II changed the order of world power; the United States and the
USSR become super powers
· Cold War begins.
Music & Radio in the 1940s
Like art, music reflected American enthusiasm tempered with European
disillusionment. At the beginning of the decade, Big Bands dominated popular music.
Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman led some of the
more famous bands. Eventually, many of the singers with the Big Bands struck out
on their own. Bing Crosby's smooth voice made him one of the most popular
singers, vying with Frank Sinatra. Dinah Shore, Kate Smith and Perry Como also led
the hit parade. Be-Bop and Rhythm and Blues, grew out of the big band era toward
the end of the decade. Although these were distinctly black sounds, epitomized by
Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Billy Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald,
Woody Herman also performed blues and jazz.
Radio was the lifeline for Americans in the 1940's, providing news, music and
entertainment, much like television today. Programming included soap operas, quiz
shows, children's hours, mystery stories, fine drama, and sports. Kate Smith and
Arthur Godfrey were popular radio hosts. The government relied heavily on radio for
propaganda. Like the movies, radio faded in popularity as television became
prominent. Many of the most popular radio shows continued on in television,
including Red Skelton, Abbott and Costello, Jack Benny, Bob Hope, and Truth or
The 1940's were dominated by World War II. European artists and intellectuals fled to
the United States from Hitler and the Holocaust, bringing new ideas created in
disillusionment. War production pulled us out of the Great Depression. Women were
needed to replace men who had gone off to war, and so the first great exodus of
women from the home to the workplace began. Rationing affected the food we ate,
the clothes we wore, the toys with which children played.
After the war, the men returned, having seen the rest of the world. No longer was
the family farm an ideal; no longer would blacks accept lesser status. The GI Bill
allowed more men than ever before to get a college education. Women had to give
up their jobs to the returning men, but they had tasted independence.


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