Women, the West, and Modernism

Publication Year



History, women, American West, modernism, liberation


History of Gender | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social History | United States History | Women's Studies


The period immediately following World War II was one of heady optimism. The Allied forces had triumphed on the battlefield; the economy, driven by a newly expanded industrial base and urban growth, was improving at an unprecedented rate; the world once again seemed safe for the forces of freedom and democracy to wage war against the emergent communist threat. Frederic Jameson refers to the years following World War II as "high modernism"- the seeming culmination of all the goods hoped for by prophets of the modern, from Immanuel Kant to Walt Disney.

If one place embodied the electric allure of progress and the new euphoria of high modernism, it was the Western United States. Growing disproportionately faster than the rest of the country, and possessing the Turnerian reputation of being the location where individuals progressed and asserted their freedom, the West was the cultural vanguard of modernism. To be Western was to be modern, and to be modern was to be committed to the ideals of economic, social, and technological progress and expanded individual choice.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status


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