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Attention Baby Boomers: The Donna Reed Syndrome Exists!

November 17, 2009

Attention Baby Boomers:  When your “soul mate” comes home from a long day at the office, do you have a secret desire to meet him at the door with a perfect smile, perfect makeup and hair, a freshly ironed dress, a strand of pearls around your neck, nylons and a girdle?  You may be infected with the Donna Reed Syndrome!

What began with a quick search on Donna Reed, thinking I would find little to post about, I was surprised with the number of Donna Reed blogs, histories of Donna Reed, Donna Reed websites, Donna Reed books, and posts … many about how The Donna Reed show has influenced the women of the 1950 – 1960’s, both mothers and their daughters.  

If you think about it, core values, which shape perceptions and ultimately goals, are embedded within us as young children of three or four years old.  And as a daughter whose mother watched “The Donna Reed Show” while she ironed, I can attest to what a great role model Donna Reed was.  From her show I learned that the “secret” of being a great wife (one of the overwhelming choice-less roles women had at the time), I needed to only dress up in an ironed and starched dress, smile, and be nice!  Oh – and make certain that I never had a run in my nylons. 

Ah — the simple years of the 1950’s, when laying in the back window of car was more common than car seats ….. sun screen?  what is that?? ….  why on earth would someone want to wear a safety belt while driving? doesn’t a seat belt wrinkle clothes? … 

In today’s post, I’ve included information about Donna, including a YouTube video which plays the opening of the Donna Reed Show.  Curious minds need to know …. so enjoy this post!

Donna Reed Facts

Donna Reed (Donna Belle Mullenger) was born on a farm in Denison, Iowa.  The City honors her with the Annual Donna Reed Festival. 

After leaving Iowa for California, she found an entrance into Hollywood by acting in supporting roles “Shadow of the Thin Man,” and “Babes on Broadway.”  She debuted in “The Get Away” (1941 – MGM),  playing opposite to Robert Sterling. 

Donna was then married to Tony Owens, and found that her career had become “stagnant.”  She and her husband created a production company, Todon Productions, which launched “The Donna Reed Show.”  The series, which received four Emmy nominations, produced 275 episodes and ran from 1958 – 1966. 

Donna Reed also appeared in two episodes of “The Love Boat” (1984), “Dallas” (Eleanor Ewing) (24 episodes 1984-1985), ” plus others.    And, Nick @ Nite aired The Donna Reed shows as a retro favorite in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. 

“The Revenge of Donna Reed,”,9171,975824,00.html

In 1987 the Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts was established.



2 Comments leave one →
  1. tabailey permalink
    November 5, 2009 12:58 am

    I think trying to make the leap from Donna Reed to Super Career Woman was a little tough for us baby boomers. I grew up watching my Mother in the Donna Reed role–she cooked (fantastic cook!), she entertained (terrific entertainer), she sewed our clothes (super seamstress)….she did everything to hold down the fort, support my Dad, the career military officer. This is what I knew from birth through growing up. But having graduated college in 1979, my life in the 80s was one where I was expected to be self-reliant, ambitious, independent, etc. And yes, I embraced those things, but still, there has always been some sort of nagging internal confusion about whether my role was to support my then-husband or be equals in terms of running our business. Confusing leap for many women like myself.
    And yes, I know that not all stay-at-home 50 Moms were happy. That’s not what I mean to present–just that I was raised seeing one set of standards/values/lifestyles and happened to be in the time frame where a radical switch to career-focus/independence took place in one generation–mine.

  2. November 5, 2009 2:13 am

    I completely agree with your comment. I mention the movie, Mona Lisa Smiles. When I watch that movie, I am always reminded of the choices our generation had ….. college for females wasn’t really pushed, and not too many females thought of “careers.” As a side note, I had my hair cut not too long ago. The beautician was young(er) and her tattoo was partially covered. I asked what it was, and she showed it to me… it was a “retro woman” from the 50’s! She gushed about how great she envisioned the 50’s were. (Of course, I DID NOT mention that I was born in the 50’s…)
    Thank you for your comment!

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