Women Without Men About 41,500,000 of the adult women in the United States are married. Here are a few conclusions that emerge from these interviews: 1.
But 21,327,000 others are women without men: women who have never married (11,822,000); widows (8,047,000) and divorcees (1,458,000). Despite the assumption by many males that women cease looking for sex, men and marriage after the age of 50, the fact is that, as one gynecologist put it, “they remain interested in all these things until cremation.” 2.
This means that a little more than one third of the 62,827,000 women in the United States are getting along without steady male companionship. Many unattached women of “nice” background are as much drawn to sexual relations with men as married women are, or perhaps more so; relentlessly, they go about most of their lives trying to find sexual fulfillment. Although it is a world-wide and historic conviction that every woman wants to be married, a great many do not want marriage.
Many of these women were forced into this role by the death of their husbands or by divorce, while others are the sole support of elderly parents. Hundreds of thousands of young women who have left their homes and moved to the big city in search of work and a husband have found only the work.
What complicates the problems of the more than 21,000,000 women without men is that they outnumber their unattached male counterparts by 3,696,000.
(There are 14,331,000 adult bachelors in the United States; 2,272,000 widowers; 1,028,000 divorced men.) Furthermore, if the ladies do not get to the altar at an early age, they are likely to get stranded.
Nowadays, 70 per cent of all American women marry before they are 24 years old. By the time a woman is 30, there is about one chance in two she will ever get married and at 40, only one chance in five.
By the time she is 50, the chances she will marry are just one in 16, and after 60, her chances drop to one in 62.
Undaunted by the statistics, most American women without men make repeated (if sporadic) attempts in the direction of marrying throughout their lifetimes—often in ways that would have scandalized the proper Victorians.
Almost to a woman, those I interviewed said the same thing: “I have only one problem.
Writing about gender roles of the 1950s, Betty Friedan once defined the “suburban housewife” as “the dream image of the young American woman.” Just as prescriptive literature of the 19th century geared to the middling classes emphasized women’s “true” place in society as mother and wife, the 1950s saw an ideal perpetuated in books, magazines, movies, television, songs, and ads that depicted the white, middle-class woman fulfilled only by a happy marriage.
The following article from a popular magazine of 1960 offered a sociological survey of the more than one-third of adult American women whose lives did not fit this domestic norm.
Based on interviews with single, divorced, and widowed women, and a host of “experts”, the author detailed the “frenzied” mating efforts of women who tried, but failed, to marry as well as the adverse psychological effects of being single.
Despite the evidence presented that unmarried women could be happy—sometimes even happier than their married counterparts—the article’s rhetorical emphasis on “frantic hordes of unwed women” relentlessly searching for husbands perpetrated a stereotypical depiction at odds with some of the statistics and testimonies quoted. To find the answers to these questions, I have interviewed scores of widows, divorced women, bachelor girls, men, gynecologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, managers of women’s hotels, executives of women’s organizations and Government statisticians.