The Silent Generation comes after the Greatest Generation and before the Baby Boomers. They are the people born between 1928 and 1945. They are now retirees ranging in age from 75 to 92 years old.
These people were born during the Great Depression and the strife of World War II.
Why is this generation called the Silent Generation?
One theory is that children of this generation were expected to be seen and not heard. Another theory is that it was not a time when it was safe for people to say what’s on their mind.
TIME magazine in a 1951 article noted: “The most startling fact about the younger generation is its silence.” One of the reasons for their reticence was uncertainty surrounding the Korean War, whether they could proceed with private plans or had to wait and see if they would be drafted. The magazine went on to call the youth of that time the Silent Generation.
General characteristics of the Silent Generation
The Silent Generation grew up during the Great Depression when it was unbelievably hard for families to survive. WWII was part of their reality not by participation, but vicariously through the adults in their lives. The war was real to them - they lost family members in the war.
After WWII, they found themselves facing social disorder and the spectre of a new threat: communism.
These were overwhelming realities for a generation trying to find their own way in the world and it formed what they would become.
Based on their experience growing up with the shortages and rationing of the Depression, the Silent Generation is a “waste not, want not” people. They don’t buy a new item if the old one still works. They tend to be thrifty and there have even been some famous misers among them. They believed in saving their hard-earned money.
Strong work ethic
The Silent Generation grew up in difficult financial times. They strived for financial security and worked hard towards that goal. They were loyal to the companies that employed them. They were the generation that worked their whole life for the same company and believed in doing the job right.
As their name indicates the Silent Generation didn’t like to stir the boat. They had respect for authority and followed the rules. This generation didn’t like to draw attention to themselves, they got on with things behind the scenes. As the TIMES found out in their survey, this cohort were not risk takers. To them, protection of family and country meant everything.
Strength of character
Surviving the Great Depression, this generation had the strength of character to endure hardships, pick themselves up by the bootstraps and move on. They didn’t blame circumstances. Resilient and determined to overcome their difficulties, they always thanked God for what they had and tried to help others whenever possible.
Interesting facts about the Silent Generation
The Silent Generation was not so silent on the music front. In the late 1950s and early 1960s this generation gave the world an explosion of music in different genres that endures to this day: the soul music of Ray Charles; rock and roll of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Little Richard, not to mention the pop music of the Beatles. Other famous music artists of this era include Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, and country singers John Denver and Willie Nelson to mention a few.
This generation, like the previous one, had some of the most enduring movie stars among them, some of whom are still showing up on the silver screen. They include people like Anthony Hopkins, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, James Dean, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Raquel Welch, Grace Kelly, Richard Harris and many more.
This generation also produced some of America’s best- loved and most celebrated comedians including Bob Newhart, Woody Allen, Mary Tyler Moore, Christopher Lloyd, Mel Brooks, John Winters, Dick Gregory, and Carol Burnett to mention a few. British actor and comedian Dudley Moore was also from this generation.
The Silent Generation count among them some of the sporting world’s top athletes. Boxing: Mohamed Ai Tennis: Billy Jean King, Rod Laver, Arthur Ashe, Roy Emerson Golf: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player Baseball: Roger Maris, Whitney Ford, Carl Yastrzemski Athletics: Roger Bannister – first person to run the mile under 4 minutes Basketball: Jerry Lucas
At the age of 37 astronaut Neil Armstrong was commander of the 1969 US Apollo 11 Moon mission that landed on the moon. Except for the late Rear Adm. Alan Shepard who was born in 1923, the dozen men who set foot on the moon, including Neil Armstrong, were all members of the Silent Generation.
The fall of Communism
The Silent Generation member, Mikhail Gorbachev, was responsible for the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev was born March 2, 1931. His policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) helped to bring about the end of the Cold War.
The world-famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was also a member of the Silent Generation. He was a brilliant scientist who brought the wonder of science to the ordinary man with his famous book, A Brief History of Time.
He is recognized as one of the brightest physicists who ever lived. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) when he was a young student at Oxford.
Started the Civil Rights Movement
The Silent Generation is credited with starting the Civil Rights Movement, their most famous member in this regard being Martin Luther King Jr. Born January 15, 1929, King was a Baptist minister and well-known leader of the Civil Rights Movement. He played a leading role in the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize In 1964.
Another prominent member of the Civil Right Movement and also a member of the Silent Generation was poet and novelist Maya Angelou.
The women of the Silent Generation made some noise
Maya Angelou was an outspoken activist for and writer about black people and women. She was not alone.
Toni Morrison, born February 18, 1931, wrote about black female experience, slavery, rape, and murder. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
Another member of the Silent Generation who cannot possibly be described as silent, is feminist, journalist, social and political activist Gloria Steinem. She became the leader of the American women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and early 70s.
Another member of the not so silent generation is Robin Morgan, born January 29, 1941. She is an American poet, author, political theorist and activist and a leader in the international feminist movement.
The Silent Generation is the only generation that didn’t produce an American president. The Greatest generation produced seven president ending with George Bush Sr. and after him the next president was Baby Boomer Bill Clinton.
John F Kennedy Assassination
The man who assassinated President John F Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a Silent Generation member. He was born on October 18, 1939.
The Silent Generation grew up in hard times that was character forming for them. On the one hand, they became traditionalists that worked hard and loyally to improve their living conditions. They saved their money and became the wealthiest generation.
On the other hand, this generation produced enduring entertainers, top sporting achievements, activists that brought about lasting social change.
This generation might have been silent to start out, but they are not going quietly.