Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Emilie Raymond


In 1958, actress Donna Reed formed her own production company to create The Donna Reed Show, which ran successfully until 1966. One of only two female television producers working in Hollywood, Reed’s show foreshadowed much of the discontent illustrated in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The series explored Donna’s frustrations with housework, her interest in professional activities outside the home, and her determination to be an equal in her marriage. However, The Donna Reed Show also diverged from Friedan on key issues by elevating the housewife and establishing her moral authority, thus foreshadowing more conservative “maternal” feminism as identified by Christina Hoff Sommers. The Donna Reed Show has been falsely grouped with other family sit-coms as conformist and has been largely overlooked for its contributions to the feminist movement by scholars, when in fact Reed created the most complex mother character on television at the time.


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