Marriage and stability were extremely important to her after a childhood of frequent moves and "never having a real home." Having married happily at 33, she loved domesticity the way a woman can only when it has come late to find her. McGinley’s life with her husband, Bill Hayden, was, her daughter Patsy Blake stated, “a sanguine, benign, adorable version of ‘Mad Men.’ ” The couple entertained avidly: the regular guest list included Bennett Cerf, the drama critic Walter Kerr and leading advertising executives of the day.
She embraced domesticity in the wake of second-wave feminism, wrote light verse in the wake of the rise of modern avant-garde and confessional poetry, and filled the gap between the housewife and the feminist intellectual who rejected the domestic life. McGinley would spend most of her professional writing career fending off criticism that tended to diminish her image of a suburban housewife poet—an image that was meant to dismiss any depth in her writing. McGinley actually labeled herself a “housewife poet,” and unlike Anne Sexton who used the term to be ironic and self-deprecating, McGinley used it as an honorable and purposefully crafted identity.
Phyllis McGinley felt that the capability to foster familial relationships was what gave women their power and she fought to defend their rights to do so. Despite her admiration for the housewife and her duties, she fully recognized the monotony and drudgery that went along with this role. Most of all however, Phyllis McGinley felt that, no matter what path a woman chose to follow, the most important thing was for a woman to recognize and acknowledge her unique and honorable place in life. McGinley’s point, an eternally divisive one, was clear: a woman who enjoyed herself as a wife and mother should not submit to imposed ambitions.
The Plain Princess by Phyllis McGinley published in 1945, it is a modern take on the conventional fairy tale. McGinley accomplishes this through the reversals of gender roles, cultural perceptions of Suburbia, and fairy tale expectations of beauty. while it contains many elements of a classic fairy tale, there are also elements of a feminist fairy tale. There is a complete non-reliance on men to resolve the complications that arise. Unlike in many other traditional fairy tales with a female protagonist, the Prince or the Father do not have any impact on the outcome of the protagonist's fate. One character that does have a strong effect on Esmeralda's fate is Dame Goodwit. However, her role is reversed in this story as she uses her intelligence and wisdom in order to help Esmeralda achieve her goals. In traditional fairy tales, a strong and powerful woman character like Dame Goodwit would either have been evil or have possessed magical powers. Instead, McGinley offers the reader a portrayal of a completely independent human woman.
In the story, Esmeralda is thrust from her royal life into a suburban setting. The socialization of the princess within her new environment has a "magical" effect on her, and rids her of her negative qualities. The transformation occurs when she becomes an independent female, both in knowledge and utility. This coincides with McGinley's view that a woman's role is not limited by suburbia but in fact is enhanced by it. While she admits that at times the day-to-day life be monotonous, McGinley maintains that her suburban lifestyle is both fulfilling and liberating.
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