Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

Calvin L. Troup

Committee Member

Kathleen Glenister Roberts


domesticity, family, nuclear family, postwar era, suburbanization, the Cold War, women's magazines


The problems associated with communication and the American family have often been the subject of academic research projects. The 1950s family is unique and offers the researcher a complex web of interwoven narratives and situational hermeneutics that have affected the American family. In an attempt to understand what was happening in the 1950s, it is imperative that an understanding of the historical moment and its significance be explored.

This dissertation examines the American family through the lens of several interpersonal communication paradigms and theories to generate a conceptual framework for understanding the "story" of the family told through its communicative structure as expressed in historical documents and artifacts and in portrayals in Ladies' Home Journal. These paradigms will help explain the narrative of the family: "Portraits through the Lens of Historicity: The American Family as Portrayed in Ladies Home Journal 1950-1959. The magazine's series "How America Lives" appeared in Ladies' Home Journal from 1940-1960; this thesis looks at all of the articles from 1950-1959.

The interpersonal theories of Martin Buber, Seyla Benhabib, and Mikhail Bakhtin help to interpret the information derived from the artifact. This conceptual framework provides the key for the interpretive methodology of the dissertation, which is a textual analysis employing terms drawn from interpersonal theory. In addition, the social constructionist approach to rhetoric and philosophy will be explained and incorporated into the study. Peter Berger, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jacques Derrida, Edmund Husserl, and Martin Heidegger join the conversation to help explain the complexities of the 1950s and the American family.

Special emphasis is given to the 1950s family and how they were influenced and persuaded by the popular media including television, and most importantly, the contributions from women's magazines. The work of Nancy Walker is continued by exploring the indepth and multilayered conversation of the "real American family, as depicted in Ladies' Home Journal, with the magazine's readers and the magazine's editors. This dissertation concludes by offering suggestions on how the 1950s American family may be interpreted by considering all facets of American culture, including the postwar era, the cold war, and the creation of the nuclear family situated and embedded in the newly created suburbs.