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History of Fatherhood Project

Ralph LaRossa

Of War and Men:  World War II in the Lives of Fathers and Their Families (University of Chicago Press, 2011)

WABE-FM PBA "Between the Lines" Interview WABE-FM PBA "Between the Lines" Interview

Fathers in the fifties tend to be portrayed as wise and genial pipe-smokers or distant, emotionless patriarchs. This common but limited stereotype obscures the remarkable diversity of their experiences and those of their children. To uncover the real story of fatherhood during this transformative era, Ralph LaRossa takes the long view—from the attack on Pearl Harbor up to the election of John F. Kennedy—revealing the myriad ways that World War II and its aftermath shaped men.

Offering compelling accounts of people both ordinary and extraordinary, Of War and Men digs deep into the terrain of fatherhood. LaRossa explores the nature and aftereffects of combat, the culture of fear during the Cold War, the ways that fear altered the lives of racial and sexual minorities, and how the civil rights movement affected families both black and white. Overturning some calcified myths, LaRossa also analyzes the impact of suburbanization on fathers and their kids, discovering that living in the suburbs often strengthened their bond. And finally, looking beyond the idealized dad enshrined in TV sitcoms, Of War and Men explores the brutal side of family life in the postwar years. LaRossa’s richly researched book dismantles stereotypes while offering up a fascinating and incisive chronicle of fatherhood in all its complexity.

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The Modernization of Fatherhood:  A Social and Political History (University of Chicago Press, 1997)

The period between World War I and World War II was an important time in the history of gender relations, and of American fatherhood. Revealing the surprising extent to which some of yesterday's fathers were involved with their children, The Modernization of Fatherhood recounts how fatherhood was reshaped during the Machine Age into the configuration we know today.

LaRossa explains that during the interwar period the image of the father as economic provider, pal, and male role model, all in one, became institutionalized. Using personal letters and popular magazine and newspaper sources, he explores how the social and economic conditions of the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression—a period of technical innovation as well as economic hardship—fused these expectations into a cultural ideal. With chapters on the U.S. Children's Bureau, the fathercraft movement, the magazine industry and the development of Parent's Magazine, and the creation of Father's Day, this book is a major addition to the growing literature on masculinity and fatherhood.


SELECTED ARTICLES/CHAPTERS

The Historical Study of Fatherhood: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations

Early Twentieth Century Parents’ Day Campaign

 

Fatherhood, Baseball, and the Game of Playing Catch

 

Help Seeking Behavior Among Early Twentieth Century American Youth