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Ricky! How Could You?

Financial dependence and a spanking

I Love Lucy, one of the most popular television programs of its time aired episode #85, titled “Ricky Loses his Temper” February 22nd, 1954. This was at a time when it was de rigeur for women to wear hats in public. Aside from all the social imperatives surrounding the wearing of a hat, this was a time when women in Canada were even legally required to wear hats when attending court proceedings.

RICKY LOSES HIS TEMPER Episode #85, Aired February 22, 1954

Sadly, many women could identify with Lucy when Ricky got angry with her for spending some of her household allowance on a new hat. Eventually, Ricky relents and permits his wife to purchase a new hat, but she has already gone behind his back and ordered one. When the hat arrives, he knows she has defied him, but he doesn’t raise his voice and berate her as he had done before. Instead, he takes her over his knee and spanks her high and heavy. She submits to this and the program ends.

It’s interesting to me that this scenario revolves around the purchase of a hat. My interest in millinery is in how it relates to women’s social history: from the wide-brimmed, hatpin adorned status-seeking hats of the suffragette movement, through the abandoning of hats as a symbol of liberation in the 60’s and 70’s, to the more recent adoption of pink pussy hats emblematic of women’s marches in the Trump era.

What is so disturbing to me about Episode 85 of the popular I Love Lucy television program is not only how the program demonstrates Lucy’s lack of financial dependence, but it is the image of her being treated as a child enduring the humiliation of a spanking at the hand of her “loving husband". Some years ago, I interviewed women regarding their hat purchases in the 1950s.

Many confessed to having carried a red pen with them when they visited the millinery salon. They report paying full price for their hats, then using the red pen to mark down the price on the card stock sticker before revealing the new hat to their husband.

Who could resist any of these?

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