The Era of Eisenhower was preceded by World War II, which gives insight into why the American public eagerly embraced Eisenhower as the new President because “Dwight Eisenhower was a celebrated hero of the Second World War, well known to the public as the five-star general who had commanded Allied forces in Europe on D-Day (The Eisenhower Era).” His reputation as a celebrated figure in addition to his conservative values that many Americans shared, catapulted him to a landslide victory. His policies of emphasizing the necessity of a balanced federal budget, lowering corporate taxes and taxes among the highest income earners, and expanding government assistance of citizens through programs such as social security shaped what Eisenhower coined as Modern Republicanism. Eisenhower’s popularity earned him two terms in office. During his time in office, Eisenhower enjoyed the success of unprecedented economic growth and prosperity, along with numerous legislative victories, despite the Democratic majority in congress six of the years he was in office. Some of these legislative victories include
continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs of his predecessors (Franklin Roosevelt and Truman, respectively), he strengthened the Social Security program, increased the minimum wage and created the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. In 1956, Eisenhower created the Interstate Highway System, the single largest public works program in U.S. history, which would construct 41,000 miles of roads across the country. (Dwight D. Eisenhower)
The implementation of these legislative changes caused a shift in society. Following World War II, the United States enjoyed a time of prosperity, but accompanying that prosperity was the feeling of uneasiness caused by the Cold War. In response to the uncertainty of the safety of the nation, Eisenhower’s administration established a national security strategy called the New Look, which relied heavily on the implementation of strategic use of nuclear weapons and air power. This allowed them to focus their energy on more powerful methods of protection rather than maintaining a standing army. The United States was no longer the sole atomic power on earth after the detonation of the Soviet Union’s first atomic device in 1949. Not only did this spark fears because of their already strained relationship, but the nation was also left to wonder how the Soviet union was able to acquire information on constructing an atomic weapon. This was the beginning of feelings of extensive paranoia and distrust due to the developing suspicions involving people or things being associated with the Soviet Union. This paranoia was reflected in the establishment of House Committee on Un-American Activities and also became major social issue as allegations and were constantly being made, for example it had effects on entertainment as seen in
Allegations that Hollywood was rife with communists led the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) to investigate many actors, writers, and directors during the 1950s. Alleged communists were placed on a blacklist and barred from working in Hollywood. (The Eisenhower Era)
This paranoia allowed senator Joseph McCarthy to rise to power by taking advantage of people’s fears. He would make absurd accusations and claims creating witch hunts and chaos. His credibility ended when he accused the army of being guilty of secretly siding with the Soviet Union, which resulted in him being censured.
The social climate and norms were changing as the United States emerged from World War II and entered into the Era of Eisenhower. For example, during World War II, women had taken on a variety of jobs due to the absence of men. This empowered women and gave them a renewed sense of independence; however, it was expected that the women would return to their role of domesticity once the men returned home. The expectations of women to return to traditional roles manifested itself in “messages in popular culture and the mass media” that “encouraged these women to give up their jobs and return quietly to domestic life” but “[m]ost women, however, wished to keep their jobs,” (The Eisenhower Era). Although many women returned to the role of homemaker, a large number of women harbored a dissatisfactions with their assigned roles in life. This led many women to hold onto their jobs or search for new ones, which is evident in statistics, such as “of some 40 million new jobs created in the three decades after 1950, more than 30 million were in clerical and service work; women filled the huge majority of these new positions (Chapter 38).”
Women taking control of their lives can be related back to Margaret Brock, as she was heavily involved with politics, especially the Republican Party. Margaret Brock was part of a movement of women taking control and power over the course of their lives. During this period, civil rights were also a major concern with events such as the desegregation of schools being mandated through the supreme court in Brown v. Board of Education. Eisenhower involved himself through Little Rock Nine and the legislation of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. This marked a pivotal time in the development of rights because of the changing perspective due to media and a new generation. Margaret Brock paved the way for other women, eventually being known as Mrs. Republican in a time where women were not readily accepted into politics or anything traditionally male. Due to the letters and research, it is clear that Margaret Brock had an integral role in Eisenhower’s campaign. While women reeled from the changes that met the post-World War II world, Margaret Brock defied social norms by directly inserting herself into a male-dominated profession. Not only was she doing what every woman hoped to do, by unapologetically following her vocation, but she was doing exactly what she wanted to do -- changing history and the Republican Party. Margaret Brock’s influence can be clearly seen throughout the letters. For example, on July 26, 1952, the eve of his campaign, Eisenhower personally thanked Margaret Brock for her dedication and trust in his campaign. The fact that the future president took time out of his day to thank Margaret Brock for her efforts speaks volumes about her dedication to the Republican Party, and just how important she was. Similarly, the quantity of letters and the large amount of time they cover show that Margaret Brock was genuinely trying to make a difference for the Republican Party, and for women. By presenting herself as the face of the Republican Party Margaret Brock inspired an innumerable amount of women to pursue their own vocation, and she continues to do so today as young women read her letters.
Chapter 38: The Eisenhower Era, 1952-1960 - AP U.S. History Chapter Outlines - Study Notes. https://www.apstudynotes.org/us-history/outlines/chapter-38-the-eisenhower-era-1952-1960/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2018.
Editors, History com. “Dwight D. Eisenhower.” HISTORY, https://www.history.com/topics/us-presidents/dwight-d-eisenhower. Accessed 1 Dec. 2018. “The Eisenhower Era.”
Khan Academy, https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/us-history/postwarera/1950s-america/a/the-eisenhower-era. Accessed 1 Dec. 2018.