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From Mae to Madonna: Women Entertainers in Twentieth-Century America

by June Sochen

Availableweb pdf$45.00x 978-0-8131-4980-6
Out of Printcloth$40.00s 978-0-8131-2112-3
Availablepaperback$45.00x 978-0-8131-9199-7
256 pages  Pubdate: 07/11/2014  6 x 9  illus

Entertainers were the first group of successful women to capture the public eye, taking to the stage in vaudeville and film and redefining their place in society. June Sochen introduces the white, African American, and Latina women who danced on Broadway, fell on bananas in silent films, and wisecracked in smoky clubs, as well as the modern icons of today's movies and popular music. S

ochen considers such women as Mae West, Bette Davis, Shirley Temple, Lucille Ball, and Mary Tyler Moore to discover what show business did for them and what they did for the world of entertainment. She uses the life of 30s and 40s Latina star Lupe Velez as a case study of the roles available to Latinas in popular culture. She then contrasts her story with that of the African American action star Pam Grier to demonstrate the old and new ways minority women are portrayed in popular culture.

From Mae to Madonna places each woman within the context of her time and talks about her relationship with dominant female stereotypes. Sochen discusses women's roles as Mary, Eve, and Lilith and asks thought-provoking questions. Why did the Depression give women movie stars so many important roles while the so-called feminist 1970s did not? Why has television been a congenial venue for women comics while film has not? In examining how entertainers worked within or transformed particular genres and how their personal and public lives affected their careers, From Mae to Madonna casts the spotlight on a series of remarkable women and their dramatic effect on America's popular culture.

June Sochen, professor of history at Northeastern illinois University, is the author of She Who Laughs Lasts: The Life and Times of Mae West.

Sochen opines that, as an entity, female entertainers were the first women to capture the public eye. -- American Historical Review

For anyone interested in the changing role of women in the mass media, From Mae to Madonna offers a fascinating account of how much and how little things have changed. -- Douglas Gomery

A broad survey of images of women in commercial entertainment, looking beyond simply cinema to vaudeville, nightclubs, radio, television, and popular music. -- Journal of American History

Strives to reach a more nuanced comprehension of women in popular culture. She calls attention to the importance of seeing popular culture as a category of inquiry and demonstrates how placing women performers within their historical contexts offers significant understanding of American women’s experiences. -- Journal of Women’s History

Examine[s] the historical impact of women in the entertainment industry, offering perceptive comments about American culture in the process. -- Library Journal

Sochen describes the ways women escaped the banal and stereotypical, the ways in which they led insurrections against social and sexual restrictions. Behind 'nice girl' and 'bad girl' images, women on stage deployed their resources against the lines of perfect decorum. -- Lillian Schlissel, CUNY