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A Jewish-created urban and cosmopolitan working girl feminism persisted in the 1950s as a cultural alternative to the suburban, domestic consumerism critiqued so eloquently by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique. The film persona of Jewish, Academy Award-winning actress Judy Holliday embodied this working girl feminism. Audiences viewed her portrayals of popular front working girl heroines in three films written by the Jewish writer and director Garson Kanin, sometimes in association with his wife, the actress Ruth Gordon, and directed by the Jewish director George Cukor in the early 1950s: Born Yesterday (1950), The Marrying Kind (1952), and It Should Happen to You (1954). Holliday’s working girl feminism conveyed women’s wage-earning as ordinary and unexceptional, women workers as competent, spunky, active in their own behalf, and unwilling to back down in the face of authority. Importantly, this working girl feminism assumed the necessity of male allies, and envisioned the possibility of male support and admiration for working women, enabling the requisite, heterosexual, romantic denouement.


Pre-published, unedited article that appeared as as chapter in A Jewish Feminine Mystique? Jewish Women in Postwar America, editors by Hasia R. Diner, Shira Kohn, and Rachel Kranson (Rutgers University Press, ©2010). The full volume is available through the publisher:,48.aspx.



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